Helmer Stroman absent but acclaimed

At the Ahmanson’s opening-night party Sunday for “Contact,” talk turned to the person who was not there. Susan Stroman, co-creator, director and choreographer, received praise in absentia from the dance-theater piece’s stars.

Meg Howrey applauded Stroman for “the opportunity to find myself in the character.” Still, the hoofer-turned-actress who hadn’t danced in five years said she had to depend on “lots of Advil, massages, beer and prayer” to get in shape.

For fellow cast member Alan Campbell “good shoes and butt pads” were the key.

The non-dancer in the ensemble cast, Campbell said he “probably apologized 500 times” to co-star Holly Cruikshank. “I stepped on her feet, crashed her into the pool table, trying to be too helpful.”

Cruikshank, who studied ballet until she “grew too tall,” seemed pretty forgiving, saying that “he helped me with my acting.”

She lauded Stroman for “letting everyone in the cast do their own thing.”

Co-creator John Weidman said writing the book for the dance play was similar to a traditional musical except where the characters usually “burst into song, here they burst into dance instead.”

Bursting onto the Music Center plaza for the outdoor after-party, several of the piece’s dancers — joined by artistic director Gordon Davidson — cut a rug to the live band.

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