Written by Miral Kotb and Athena Sunga; Directed by Miral Kotb; Music by Justin “Kanobby” Keitt and Christopher Tignor; Choreography by Miral Kotb, John “JRock” Nelson, Dario Mejia, Marcus Allan Cobb, and Robert Vail.
BOTTOM LINE: This upbeat story follows a band of street dancers and artists who fight to keep creativity safe for all.
There are few shows that really lead from their title; this show is a great exception. The moment you enter its theater, iLuminate presents you with the possibility of pure visual storytelling. At curtain’s rise, both children and adults are transported into an illuminated world full of magic, fun, and spectacle. A perfect night for everyone, you can’t go wrong with iLuminate.
The production is a party. With a blasting original score by Justin “Kanobby” Keitt and Christopher Tignor and created choreography from much of the cast, the show moves like a night out on the town. We follow a talented, albeit shy, man named Jacob who loses his beautiful paintbrush to a nefarious club kid. The coveted paintbrush creates awe-inspiring animation which transforms ordinary life into fantastical whimsy. The animation jubilantly leaps and piques with Jacob and his girlfriend, easels float and lights flicker. Thoroughly engaged, Jacob and his girlfriend befriend a band of b-boys and girls at a club; it’s there the paintbrush is stolen by an antagonizing pop-and-locker. The scene changes as creativity gets replaced with decay. Soon, it’s up to the b-boys and girls to fix the mess. And all through the power of dance!
The production is filled with dancing shenanigans which make up all of the comedy. For a piece devoid of dialogue, it speaks loudly through its choreography. The mixture of hip hop and contemporary themes further the story’s arch with satisfying results. The multiple break dancing group numbers are nimble and fresh, yet the more contemporary phrases hold their own as well. You don’t have to know dance for the strong technique to move you. However, the brilliant choreography is not the only visually striking element. Of course a show entitled “illuminate” must sparkle. And it does. The ridiculously cool costumes by John “JRock” Nelson, Grace Eddy, and Marcus Allan Cobb never cease to thrill. It’s actually difficult to articulate how the costumes transfigure throughout the show, but let me assure you it is unlike anything onstage now. The costumes combine, come apart, enlarge, and nimbly fly across the stage. The production is a perfect ensemble fete. Much like its New World Stages neighbor, Peter and the Starcatcher, iLuminate hinges on ensemble power. Its innovation is surely unparalleled, though. I can't emphasize the "fun for all" aspect of this show. Entering the theater you'll find children with parents as well as working adults. At the start of the show we’re encouraged to hoot, holler, and howl at everything we like, which is probably everything. The relaxed atmosphere only increases the fun exponentially.
If you have kids or are still a kid-at-heart, go see this show. Though there are so many fine plays and musicals out there, iLuminate shines in a different way. Its light, its dance, and spectacle are unlike anything you might see, so make sure to grab the anecdote while you can.
(iLuminate plays at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, in an open run. Performances are Mondays and Wednesdays at 7PM; Thursdays and Fridays at 8PM; Saturdays at 2:30PM and 8PM; and Sundays at 3PM and 7PM. Tickets are $50-$70 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200. A limited number of $26 Student Rush tickets (cash only, with valid student ID) are available at the box office day of performance. For more information, visit www.iLuminate.com.)