When combining the talents of artists that together have garnered 18 Tonys, four Pulitzer Prizes, six Pulitizer finalist distinctions, three Emmys and two Academy Awards for a musical, the result can be nothing short of spectacular.
The dance-theatre musical In Your Arms, which had its world premiere Sept. 24 at The Old Globe in San Diego, is such a show. Featuring the music and lyrics of Tony winner Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Rocky, Seussical, Once on This Island) and Lynn Ahrens, respectively, it is described as “a ravishing evening that flies, leaps and twirls through the giddy extremes of romantic love” and “as intoxicating as a sunset cocktail and as exhilarating as a first kiss.” The adjectives are rampant for this unique event of vignettes. It is noted as ranging across eras and cultures to tell stories in the universal language of dance. The styles include classical ballet, swing, tap, ballroom, jazz, flamenco and more.
One of the segments features noted choreographer Adesola Osakalumi along with Marija Juliette Abney in “The Wedding Dance,” written by Pulizer winner Lynn Nottage (Sweat, By The Way Meet Vera Stark, Ruined). Osakalumi, the lead in the Broadway and international tours of the Tony-winning Fela!, and Abney are stunning in their African garb.
The wedding is the most important ceremony in African culture, with marriage being considered a privilege. An African proverb says: “A man without a wife is like a vase without flowers.” This rite of passage signifies new life and new hope, as the new relationship is meant to enrich communities.
Osakalumi’s Broadway debut was in the 2008 revival of Peter Shaffer’s Equus. Abney – Cheetah in the The Lion King and whose work has been featured in After Midnight and New York City Opera’s Anna Nicole – is a recent alumna of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts graduate performance studies program. She received her undergraduate degree from The Ailey School/Fordham University B.F.A. program.
In Your Arms runs through Oct. 25 under the direction and choreography of Tony winner Christopher Gattelli (Newsies, Amazing Grace, The King and I), who also serves as the co-conceiver with longtime Broadway producer Jennifer Manocherian.