|Productions||1999 Off Broadway
2002 West End
2003 U.S. tour
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical|
Contact is a musical "dance play" (some deemed it a ballet) that was developed by Susan Stroman and John Weidman, with its "book" by Weidman and both choreography and direction by Stroman. It ran both off-Broadway and on Broadway in 1999–2000. It consists of three separate one-act dance plays.
Contact premiered at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center, in September 1999 (after 1999 workshop productions of parts of the show), then moved to Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, on March 30, 2000 and played for 1,010 performances.
The show was received with much critical acclaim  and won the 2000 Tony Award for Best Musical (among others - see below). However, it caused much controversy in the American theater world about what constitutes a musical, as instead of original music, it uses pre-recorded music and songs, the actors do not sing, and there is minimal dialogue. As a result of the controversy, a new category was created for the Tony Awards: Best Special Theatrical Event.
The original cast album was released on March 6, 2001. The idea of a cast album for a show with no original score was in itself controversial. PBS included the show's final performance in its program "Live From Lincoln Center" on September 1, 2002. The show went on to tour nationally.
"Contact" was initially developed, researched, and written by Mike Ockrent's (Stroman's husband) development executive and assistants during his brief production deal at Warner Bros. It was to be a musical film based on the swing revival currently under way in New York. Warner Bros. considered the idea, along with the idea from Ockrent's employees for a film musical of Therese Racquin, which was also later given to Stroman as "Thou Shalt Not." After Ockrent's film deal dissolved, the ideas were then made use of by Stroman.
Structure, music and story
Contact is made up of three separate dance pieces, each set to pre-recorded music from the likes of Tchaikovsky, Stephane Grappelli, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Royal Crown Revue, and The Beach Boys. In each story, the central character expresses a longing to make a romantic connection.:
- Part One - "Swinging"
- Part One, set in an 18th-century French forest clearing, can be described as a contact improvisation on Fragonard's The Swing, a print of which is displayed on an easel when the audience arrives. Sex and concealed identity are involved in this piece of amoral intrigue - a servant and his master each seeks the young lady's affection. Much of the action takes place on a moving swing.
- Part Two - Did You Move?
- Part Two, set in 1950s New York, takes place in an Italian restaurant, focusing on the empty marriage of a small-time gangster and his wife. The wife has extensive dance sequences as she fantasizes about escaping her verbally abusive spouse, but each time is returned rudely to reality. Set to recorded orchestral music of Tchaikovsky and Grieg.
- Part Three - "Contact"
- Part Three, a contemporary piece, explores the emptiness of the career-driven lives of Manhattan apartment dwellers. A lonely advertising executive on the brink of suicide is somehow transported to a bar, where he encounters a stunning woman in a yellow dress. To win her and take control of his life, he must gain the confidence to make contact with another human being. . It helped to create a surge of interest in acrobatic and rock and roll swing dancing.
Awards and nominations
In addition to winning Best Musical and Best Choreography, Karen Ziemba (in Part Two) and Boyd Gaines (in Part Three), won Tonys for Best Featured Actress and Best Featured Actor in a Musical, respectively. The show also won Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding New Musical, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Lighting Design.
Original Broadway cast
West End cast
- Contact at the Internet Broadway Database
- Contact at the Internet off-Broadway Database
- Interview with Karen Ziemba
- Interview with Deborah Yates
- Review in Dance Magazine