Audiences expecting the mellow harmonies of a symphony orchestra, the dulcet tones of an operatic soprano or the synchronized steps of a prima ballerina, be forewarned, the Arsht Center is being transformed into a fantastic discotheque this summer.
Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and set in a pulsing ‘70s dance club, a la Studio 54, The Donkey Show is a dramatic departure from the Arsht Center’s usual programming.
Created by Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, the Broadway creative team responsible for many Tony-winning productions, the interactive show was further adapted for Miami audiences by Allegra Libonati and features a cast of 20 local singers, dancers and acrobats.
Explains Stephanie Chisholm, a Miami-based circus performer who stars as Tytania, “The basic outline of the story is taken from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and our whole world is inside this awesome disco club, Club Oberon. You have your fairies, star-crossed lovers and the king and queen of the club.”
But what makes the show unique is the level of audience involvement, she points out. The audience can move to the orchestra pit area that serves as the club’s dance floor and interact with the characters during the story. While the actors work from a script, much of the action is dependent on the audience and will change at each performance.
“That’s the excitement of it because, for us, every night will be different,” Chisholm says. “We’ve been prepping ourselves so everyone knows what needs to happen in case the audience changes the story. We have each others’ backs.”
Dancer Jimmy Alexander Arguello, one of the fairies, is too young to remember the disco era—he’s 26—but he says the energy is infectious.
“The music just takes me to a world I would have loved to have grown up in,” he says, “with the funky colors, afros and wild clothes. I’m living it right now, so it’s fascinating.”
Arguello was born and raised in Miami and later was a standout on the TV competition So You Think You Can Dance. He went on to serve as assistant choreographer for the film Rock of Ages filmed here last year and just released in theaters.
“It’s just a big fantasy,” he says enthusiastically. “Audiences will love the music and costumes. The choreography is fun and quirky. There is a big reveal toward the end. They’re going to want to get up on stage and dance.”
Like Chisholm, Arguello says the biggest challenge will be to adapt to the audience at each show, especially because his character is mute: “For me, the dancing was easy, but the acting has been more of a challenge because I need to create a character and body language.”
And the talented duo agrees the show will definitely push the envelope for the actors and the audiences alike.
“There’s nothing quite like this show,” Chisholm says with a knowing chuckle. “Miami has never seen anything like it.”
The Donkey Show
Ziff Ballet Opera House
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami
Wednesdays – Sundays, July 13 – August 12
Tickets $45-70 at ArshtCenter.org