“THE NANCE” Fast-Paced, Remarkably Versatile, Always Busy, And Always Funny

St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened the Florida premier of “The Nance” on June 2, 2017 which will remain on the Matuza Main Stage through June 25, 2017. The theatre is located at 11 Old Mission Avenue; call 825-1164 or visit limelight-theatre.org for reservations.

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The play, written by Douglas Carter Beane, received three Tony awards after opening on Broadway in 2013 with star Nathan Lane in the lead role, and both entertains and educates.

The Nance” is set in New York City in 1937. The city is filled with burlesque theatres, which feature performances filled with adult content and allusions to sexual situations by naughty bawdy strippers and comedians. The “Nance,” who portrayed a campy homosexual male was a frequent headliner; the role was usually played by heterosexuals. But the performers are endangered; Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia is determined to shut down the burlesque theatres and theatres can be denied a business license for violating “decency laws” during performances.

The show stars Dave Alan Thomas as Chauncey Miles, who headlines the cast at the Irving Place Theatre. His performances in the role of the effeminate Nance – laced with double entendres and physical humor – have become wildly popular, and are attracting an audience filled with gay men. Mr. Thomas is brilliant in this role. His previous appearances at Limelight have included King Arthur in “Spamalot,” Gomez in “The Addams Family,” and Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman.”

The first scene takes place in an automat, which is known as a hangout for gay men wanting to make connections. Here, Chauncey meets Ned, a young man who has left his upstate life and wife behind to seek new experiences. Chauncey is initially cautious, as he is concerned about entrapment by law enforcement. They eventually fall in love and Ned winds up in an onstage role with Chauncey. While Jacksonville actor Matt Tompkins has appeared frequently on Jacksonville stages during the past five years, this is his Limelight debut. He is excellent in the demanding role of Ned, which requires both comedy and compassion.

The show and the scene changes are fast-paced. The automat walls revolve to reveal the theatre, with a colorful mockup of classic Broadway facades. Chauncey’s apartment is realistic, with a vintage icebox and radio.

The stage sketches are a real lesson in the vaudeville routines of the time, filled with clowning, dancing, slapstick, and snappy repartee. Director Shelli Long has a marvelous cast of zany performers.

The remarkably versatile, always busy, and always funny actor Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "Evan Gould" returns to Limelight as Efram, who is both the theatre manager and the chief comedian. Gould is another actor who is in constant demand on local stages, and can do it all, including singing and dancing.

The three strippers, an indispensable part of the show, are bubbly, bouncy, and hilarious. Amy Tillotson, whose name we have seen in many programs as a costumer (she assisted with Nance’s costumes) is totally shameless as she bumps and grinds while singing “La Cucaracha” in a South-of-the-Border accent.

Bethany Paolini makes her Limelight debut as Joan. Ms. Paolini was very active on stage at Florida State University. In this production, she performs a solo that you don’t want to miss. As the scene opens, it appears that a formally dressed couple is engaging in a serious necking session — but turns out that Joan is portraying both parties.

Actress Sharon Resnikoff portrays Sylvia, who is a good friend to Chauncey even though he is a Republican and she is a Communist. Resnikoff is an excellent singer and dancer and recently received rave reviews as the lead in Limelight’s production of Hedda Gabler.

The final actor is Rose, a costume assistant played by Kelly Kates. She appears throughout the play in scenes set in the interior of the Irving Place Theatre and is line perfect as she has none. She made her Limelight debut as Susan in”No Sex Please, We’re British.”

If clothing is your passion, you will love the double-breasted pinstripe suits for the men and the period dresses for the women.

Nance is actually a play with music, which was provided by pianist Stefanie Batson-Martin. The songs sung by various cast members were not listed in the program; they were all short and mainly funny. Titles included “Don’t Bust My Bubble,” “I Just Say High,” and “Everybody is Looking for Love.”

Crew Members included: Shelli Long (Director/Props Master); Francesca Bellavista (Stage Manager); Carl Liberatore (Lighting Design); Dom Grasso (Set Designer); Ryan Walker (Light and Sound Board Operator); Cameron Sparks and Izabella Unice (Stage crew).

We will leave the haunting ending for you to discover. This show was both thought-provoking and funny and, judging by the frequent applause, the large Sunday matinee audience loved it.

– A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.