The Setup: Their chests glisten, their hair whips around and sticks to sweaty foreheads, their legs scissor across the stage in blurring beats, they exude sex -- and that's just the guys. The gals are pretty much the same, except their chests are covered and they wear spangled skirts and incredibly high heels. In the direct overhead light, the men's pectorals gleam like Greek statues, and the women in the audience scream in girlish delight whenever the guys wiggle their hips, twitch their butts, or cast off their shirts.
The Execution: Frenetic and terribly dramatic, Jason Gilkison's choreography resembles the routines created by Peter Gennaro for NBC's Kraft Music Hall, only lacking the real excitement of Juliet Prowse or Chita Rivera in the foreground. The cast works overtime, no question about it, but to what effect? It's all the same, no matter what "dance" they're doing: The rumba looks just like the samba, which looks like the cha cha, which resembles the swing, which isn't much different from the jive. The women toss their thick manes to and fro with the same heady inflection as when they move their nimble feet. There's no real theme to the show, it's basically a series of routines (using the five standard dances and the five Latin dances that comprise the repertoire of international ballroom competition) set to a recorded score with live percussion and a male and female singer (I presume they're singing live, but who can tell, it's all so amplified). The titular star of the touring show is Mark Ballas, who you may remember partnered Bristol Palin last month on Dancing With the Stars. His pecs look great in the overhead lighting, and he's a sizzling performer and snazzy dancer, but since everybody's doing the same steps he doesn't really stand out. Nobody gets to shine, which may be the point -- everyone's a star on the ballroom floor -- but the show comes alive in the quietest moments, when the waltz is featured and nobody's forcibly sexed up. The couples hold each other in tender embrace. As they smoothly glide across the stage, the women's gown fans out in lazy spirals and the men, impeccably dressed, lead their partners with timeless aplomb. Immediately, it's Fred and Ginger time, and magic happens. But the mood of wonder is short lived. Everybody rushes back on stage, gyrating, lifting their legs in ear-hitting extensions, awash with faux eroticism.
The Verdict: Sex gets the hard sell and looks awfully tiring and not worth the effort.
(Through December 19. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby, 1-866-614-4183. $65-$194.)