The Odyssey Dance Theatre’s deep dark secret is that its most popular Halloween extravaganza Thriller isn’t really scary. Unless, of course, you’re frightened of ghouls, zombies, mummies, ghosts, dinosaurs, Frankenstein’s monster, skeletons, scarecrows, phantoms, witches, vampires, a horde of homicidal Chucky dolls, hockey-masked maniacs with chainsaws, killers hiding under the bed and things that just generally go bump in the night.
Oh, yeah. Thriller might also be scary if you’re terrified by great dancing.
The Odyssey Dance Theatre has been wowing Utah audiences with Thriller for more than twenty years and it’s easy to see why. Thriller is a great show. There are gorgeous costumes, dazzling special effects, a marvelous soundtrack mixing classical and contemporary music, lots of laughs and a few jump- out-of-your-seat scares.
Did I mention great dancing?
Thriller is the brainchild of Darryl Yeager, the veteran actor, director and choreographer who founded Odyssey Dance in 1994. Although ODT has a corps of 30 professional dancers, the company is augmented by talented volunteers of all ages to fill out the huge cast required to stage Thriller. The show is made up of 20 production numbers ranging in scale from solos and duets to real mob scenes. The styles of dancing in Thriller run the gamut from classic ballet to hip-hop, but Yeager’s hoofers have obviously mastered all of those techniques.
I hadn’t seen Thriller in more than a decade; judging from the performance I saw in late September, the show has evolved somewhat over the years.
The old favorite dance routines are still there. After all, Thriller wouldn’t be Thriller without “Curse of the Mummy,” “Dem Bones,” “Salem’s Mass,” “The Lost Boys” and – of course – “Thriller.” The show’s new material includes an incredibly schizophrenic tap dance routine, breathtaking traipse choreography by performers from Aeris Aerial Arts, some video interludes and what seemed to be a lot more ballet content. With the exception of the videos – which were funny, but seemed to interrupt the show’s tempo – the new elements were all welcome additions to Thriller.
While Thriller is amazing from start to finish, a few high points in the production demand kudos. One of those was the aforementioned tap dance by Ryan Moguel, which deserved a standing ovation. Another was a hilarious parody of Romeo and Juliet with Tommy Green and Bailey Evans portraying the Frankenstein monster and his bride in a stumbling ballet. The trio of Owen Fullerton, Tommy Green and Peiter Mortensen devoted their considerable talents to an unforgettable comic pantomime of another day at the office for maniac killers. Finally, Matisse Seal performed stunning feats of acrobatics while literally tying herself in knots high above the stage of the Ellen Eccles Theatre.
While Thriller is now being staged at multiple venues across the Wasatch Front, it’s strictly a Halloween event. That means the clock is ticking if you want to catch the Odyssey Dance Theatre performing at its best.