DRUMline Live, Urbana, IL

Written by:
Alyssa Schoeneman
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The drum major and drummers from DRUMline Live

DRUMline Live

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Urbana, IL
Nov. 9, 2010

(See video clip below.)

DRUMline Live tour schedule

Whether you’re pushing 80 or you just turned 8 years old, DRUMLine Live has the show for you. And yes, it’s the same show.

A show based on the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) marching band tradition, DRUMLine Live incorporates upbeat music, lively choreography and flashy production elements to emulate the total HBCU halftime experience… with a few added perks. The company takes advantage of the theater’s production capabilities, using a projected video during transitions, and evoking the theater’s blackout look for a glow-in-the dark drum feature.

The show highlighted music from various genres over the course of the evening, framing each era within its own mini episode. “American Soul” paid tribute to artists Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and James Brown, among others, while “The King” commemorated the work of the late Michael Jackson. Individual DRUMLine Live cast members emerged during these sections as outstanding singers; the haunting voices of Christina “Tina Rose” Anderson (trombone) and Aheisha Duke (trumpet) were later showcased in a section entitled “Gospel.” The members of the DRUMLine Live cast are in no way “one-trick ponies”; on the contrary, the majority of the performers play multiple instruments with technical precision throughout the course of the evening, somehow maintaining proper breath support atop a fury of dance choreography.

The dancing in DRUMLine Live has a true vitality from the program’s beginning to its final scene, “Funky Footwork.” Though the program names only five women as being dancers, the cast is composed of a group of “dancin’ fools.” In reality, the musicians brought vibrancy to the choreography that the named dancers sometimes lacked. These dancers were often given jam-packed choreography that moved quickly from trick to trick, which hampered them from fully completing their movements; this rushed quality exposed some technical weakness in contemporary choreography as evidenced by incomplete foot extensions, absent functional pliés and unpolished pirouettes. Despite this, the women fully committed to their roles as both the eye candy of the evening and as the visual translation of the musical scores. The drum major’s choreography should also be noted; DM Brian Snell’s nimble backbends, deep squats and lofty jumps set a high standard for the performance of ensemble choreography—one that was consistently met by each and every cast member. And the audience took note.

DRUMLine Live is built to encourage audience participation and energy, and there was no shortage of either at the Urbana show; two audience members were brought onstage in a medley of American Motown classics to serve as temporary Temptations, or “temporary Temps,” as one cast member joked, while Act I’s second number, “Drum Major/Shout It Out,” brought clapping, dancing audience members to their feet, unprompted. Throughout the show, the DRUMLine Live company members were highly accessible to the audience. While some musicians played to the audience facially, others took the term more literally—approximating one-on-one serenades to audience members during large group numbers. Following the show’s finale, the cast invited audience members to the lobby for a final musical number and a post-show meet-and-greet; it was no surprise that the cast of DRUMline Live went out just as they came in—in style.

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