by Carole Di Tosti
How many chances do we have to see a visually stunning show which electrifies our emotions and dazzles our senses with breathtaking alacrity? iLuminate delivers on all counts and is not to be missed if you intend to be uplifted and exhilarated to your core this holiday season.
iLuminate may be rather thin on plot convolutions, but the arc of development is lusciously steered by symbolism and metaphor. The creative spirit of light, which energizes all life and art, propels the production which is completely in the darkness, representing the void and the vacuum of space (there is a wonderful reveal after the show’s conclusion). Indeed, as science has informed us that there is more dark matter than light, then the production emphasizes the importance of light, with all of its hues, its variations, its movements, its vibrance, regardless of whether its intent is malevolent or productive. Against a backdrop of the blackest of unshaded night, light is that which informs our purpose and strengthens us to evolve, as does Jacob, the hero of the story of iLuminate.
The entire production pits the darkness, and the light in all its forms against one another. The multi-colored rainbow illuminations, the performers suit up and wear along with 15 pound battery packs to sustain the “electrified glow-in-the-dark” outlines of a multitude of characters. The characters are of all hues and body shapes and the thin emissions of light intimate faces, hair, outfits, shapes and sizes to form the adorable, the rowdy, the flip, the cool, the monstrous, the heroic, the villainous. And surrounding these thin, sibilant wisps of personified color and ready to engulf them forever, there is darkness.
As our eyes welcome the rainbow-colored outlines, we appreciate being plunged into another realm where we must apprehend reality differently. As a result, one’s sense of hearing and vision and anticipation become more acute. The performers’ movements are heightened and magnified. Thin emanating rainbow lines are the only visuals we see. More is revealed than if we were watching the performers dancing in the familiar luminations of stage spotlights. The high kicks seem higher and faster; the balletic moves are more ravishing, the break dancing spins are swifter and more perilous; the flips and high jumps whirl more specifically; the performers’ synchronized movements are strikingly mechanistic. And as the choreography melds with the pulsating music, we appreciate that this production is about light and dark, good and evil, movement and invisibility, rhythmically fabulous music (all styles are represented except country), and an absence of melody in the vacuum.
The storyline follows Jacob. He is an artist whose attempts to relate his artistry to the world with a powerful magic paintbrush become foiled by a hateful citizen who steals his power and creates monstrous creatures that threaten his neighbors. Jacob must confront the dangers with another kind of power, save the town and his sweetheart, and go head-to-head with a being that is magnificently realized by the performers and the artistic team. We realize that unless power is channeled by one whose core is goodness, it can be converted to wicked purposes. Yet, when we consider the appalling blackness beyond, even the villainous comfort, as long as their lights “glow-in-the-dark.”
The program gives a synopsis of the arc of Jacob’s journey. I am thrilled that I didn’t look at it until later. I allowed the brilliantly talented dancers and thrilling music to completely sweep me up in the energy of the show. I became lost in the spectacularly ingenious light displays of conflict, love, danger and villainy. And I was absolutely gobsmacked by the cast’s prodigious dancing talents. The performers’ athleticism and skill are breathtaking.
This is a remarkable show that the entire family will love. All kudos to Miral Kotb (director/producer), West Hyler (consulting director), Athena Sunga (playwright), Justin “Kanobby” Keitt (music director), Christopher Tignor (composer), and Matt Stine (music director). And to the entire cast, choreographers and artistic team? Never, ever forget you are amazing!
iLuminate. Through January 8, 2017 at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues). www.iluminate.com
Photos courtesy of iLuminate