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Review: ‘High Strung Free Dance’ paints Broadway as the Straight, Bland Way

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Juliet Doherty in the movie “High Strung Free Dance.”
(GVN Releasing)

Glossy, skin-deep and as subtle as a brick, the Broadway musical drama “High Strung Free Dance” makes TV’s “Smash” look like Chekhov. This follow-up to 2016’s “High Strung” has its visual dazzle and performance highs but the story and characters are just too fake, chaste and grit-free to take seriously.

Series creators Michael Damian and wife Janeen (they co-wrote and produced; Michael directed) reunite for this amped-up, fairy tale-ish look at two young Broadway hopefuls — pianist Charlie (Harry Jarvis) and dancer Barlow (Juliet Doherty) — as twists of fate land them top spots in a Broadway extravaganza called “Free Dance.”

Meanwhile, the show’s manipulative, erratic, “insanely gifted” choreographer, Zander (Thomas Doherty, no relation to Juliet), pulls everyone’s strings — including, least believably, wealthy theatrical producer Ravi (Ace Bhatti).

It all feels miles away from reality, which may be the point. But that also makes the narrative seem dated and out of touch: Too many here are syrupy-nice, hyper-supportive and/or doll-like gorgeous; any fleeting tension is clichéd and contrived; and we learn little of substance about anyone. And really: no gay-identifying folks in this particular arena?

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The musical and dance sequences can feel overly edited and, save the opening night show, largely wedged in. Still, they’re all plenty energetic, impressive and diverting, especially the Bollywood number. Jane Seymour elevates things as Barlow’s dance teacher-mother.

'High Strung Free Dance'
Rated: PG, for some language

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday in general release


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