Hankering for leggy showgirls, recorded New Age music and a vaguely pretentious storyline? Vegas too hot or expensive? Sashay over to the El Portal’s “Beyond,” a Frenchified revue hoping to become Cirque du Soleil when it grows up. An attraction of modest means, modest pleasures and inflated ambitions, this labor of love from quintuple threat Aurelien Roulin (impresario, director, choreographer, dancer, aerialist) has a giddy, wan “let’s put on a show in Pop’s barn” air, especially if Mickey and Judy had had a thing for feathers and gold lame.
Billed as “a leap from dream to reality,” “Beyond” appoints a “Dreamer” (cute, chunky Alex David) to wander wide-eyed through a dozen dance numbers in as many musical styles — swing, Bollywood, can-can — and occasionally to participate. A few circus routines are tossed in as well, notably “New Birth,” in which Roulin and Sunny Soriano frolic erotically overhead as they emerge from a big white bag. If Ed Sullivan had polished off a plateful of hash brownies, this is what he would have programmed on Sunday night.
The dancers are game rather than precise, gingerly navigating a heavy, two-tiered unit set. Everyone tries really hard, and a GI Jive version of Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” is a treat. But over time, miscues and pauses reveal how tough it is to leap from the dream of something showroom-worthy, to the reality of the resources required to pull off an extravaganza on this scale.
Likable emcee David shows a fondness for glitzy duds, notably a skintight military uniform that must be General Petraeus’ nightmare of what’ll happen when don’t ask/don’t tell is repealed. He unfortunately squanders good will on a painful closing duet of “Maybe This Time” with the equally pitchy Ripley Rader, who earlier brings Dolores Gray’s soulless pizazz to a Piaf medley. Maybe next time, the musical repertoire can be rethought?
The unquestionable highlight is exquisite Ganchimeg Oyunchimeg’s contortionist display, effortlessly twisting her body into the strangest configurations this side of CGI, at several junctures actually sitting on her own head.