Freddie Falls in Love Sets Heartbreak to Your Secret Breakup Playlist
Real life is decidedly inelegant. But memory — set to the proper soundtrack — can turn it into poetry. Bittersweet nostalgia for those aching moments you end up defining by a Fiona Apple song you used to cry to in the shower is exactly what Al Blackstone conjures up with comedy and tenderness in his new theatrical dance piece, Freddie Falls in Love, running at the Joyce Theater through August 4. Sure, it's solipsistic, sentimental, and all those other adjectives that usually keep our feelings confined to our headphones. But there's nothing like some world-class dancing to make that churning inner drama look as big as it feels.
Starring musical theater mainstay Matt Doyle and So You Think You Can Dance champion turned Broadway triple threat Melanie Moore, the story is simple: Boy meets Girl. Boy loses Girl. Boy has to get over Girl. Each stage of that process is set to another track of a dreamed-up mixtape that could as easily be a compilation of songs that Boy made for Girl, Girl made for Boy, or Boy accumulates for himself along his emotional roller coaster of love and loss. However it came to be, it's an eclectic assortment of tunes that memorialize different points in the relationship: The '50s bop "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" is their first encounter on a New York City subway; Semisonic's "Closing Time" is the last party they went to as a happy couple; "Bei Mir Bistu Shein" is that crazy night he spent at a club on his soul-searching Parisian vacation (the piece's designated showstopper, featuring incredible dancing by Kolton Krouse and Cabaret-inspired costuming by Christine Meyers).
Aside from taking the occasional opportunity to pull out every magnificent weapon in his arsenal, Blackstone's choreography is specific and story-driven — like a memory play that hasn't been corroded by the banality of words. Dance even takes on a broader definition with Doyle, an actor first and foremost, at the center of the story and an ensemble of seasoned professionals painting the world around him (there's an especially clever video game scene that Doyle shares with his onstage bestie, played by the captivating Betty Weinberger). His vocabulary is obviously not that of the rest of the company, but it's full of expression and organically clicks into the world of the play, even when he's just glumly retreating to the safety and solitude of a toilet seat (one of many fun ways Jason Sherwood's simple set design of chalkboard-covered cubes is put to use — original set design by David Masenheiner).
And then there's Moore, whose vocabulary — both emotional and physical — seems virtually infinite. After two long Broadway runs in Fiddler on the Roof and Hello, Dolly! with no substantial platform for her dancing, it's exciting to finally see using her full range of talents. Be warned, however, that you'll have to seize your moments with her in Freddie Falls in Love. She has only one big solo number (the story's pivotal moment set to Fiona Apple's "Why Try to Change Me Now"), followed by brief cameos and extended absences from the stage. Selfish instincts may leave you wanting to see more of her, but the resulting sense of deprivation is crucial to the story Blackstone is trying to tell. After all, what else is loss but the feeling of having had something beautiful, and then wondering where it's disappeared to?