There are triple threats in the musical theater genre and then there is Aaron Cash whose one man show Last Dance, the forgotten masters sold out and brought the audience to their feet at the Long Beach Playhouse. Born in Australia, trained as an actor, singer, dancer and choreographer, Cash was an original cast member of Tap Dogs, which began in Newcastle, Australia with Olivier Award-winning choreographer Dein Perry. Cash performed with Cher and worked with such dance elites as Twyla Tharp, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Michael Jackson, to name a few. While continuing to work around the world, Cash has made Long Beach his home.
In Last Dance Cash took on the personas and voices of multiple characters, focusing on three dance masters who were unfamiliar to me. Cash’s portrayal, however, was so convincing, that I spent a lot of time googling their names. The program states that Gunter Von Pantzapffel (1902-1948) was a German born dancer who invented the revolutionary dance step known as “The Unch” which went on to inspire such choreographers as Martha Graham, Jack Cole, Ruth St. Denis, and Ted Shawn. Rafeal Bonnac Aranjuezella Garcia (1756-1775) was not known throughout the world, but in Spain he was considered one of the finest and fastest Flamenco dancers ever. Peter Brown a.k.a. Con Temporary (1944-1978) was a famous performance artist during the 1960s and ‘70s who invented a dance step called “The Poughkeepsie.”
Both Gunter Von Pantzapffel and Peter Brown were gay and Cash lived inside these two men, taking on their speech patterns, mannerism, sharp wits and dance styles. Cash’s comedic timing is excellent and when he can or must, when faced with a costume “malfunction”, is a pro at improvisation. Last Dance was written by Cash, and the dialogue is a blend of humor, history and tragedy. All three men that Cash chose to inhabit lived hard and died young.
Performed on a set with only a bar, a high back chair, an ashtray and the audience seated on three sides, Cash took us into the private gay life of Pantzapffel who worked in cabarets and theaters, choreographing for the renowned Marlene Dietrich. Pantzapffel gained notoriety with this new dance step he invented, “The Unch” and with the aid of an important producer, escaped Nazi Germany. Pantzapffel spent several years in California before he moved to the south where, after managing to survive being gay in a hostile society and escaping the Nazis, he was beaten to death by two southern rednecks. Pantzapffel’s life was filled with triumph and tragedy, and Cash portrayed all of this with great clarity and affection.
Garcia was in his twenties when he was bitten by a poisonous spider and died during a performance. Peter Brown a.k.a Con Temporary died in 1978 of an AIDS related illness at the young age of 34. During the 1970s and ’80s, the AIDS epidemic killed thousands of gay artists around the world. Cash slipped in and out of all his characters faster than it takes to pronounce his name and during one scene Cash moves in and out of Irish, English, German and American accents with amazing ease.
Cash related how his father could speak to the dead and that he inherited this gift. After attending Last Dance I am convinced that this just might be true. My google searches for these three forgotten dance masters bore no fruit. Were these men real? I found no proof of their existence but to Aaron Cash, they are very real.
The set for Last Dance was by Kim White, Costume Designer was Hilde Byrne, with music and sound by Andrew Furze. Cash changed costumes onstage behind a small bar about the size of an upright piano. One of the two women who assisted him was his lovely wife Regina Cash, who also had many other jobs in helping Last Dance become a reality.
Last Dance has one more performance (Sunday, April 15) at the Long Beach Playhouse before Cash takes it on the road, performing in September at Theater Row on 42nd Street in New York City. If you can get tickets, go see Last Dance. Aaron Cash is a stellar actor, dancer, impersonator and comedian.
It may be sold out, but for information and tickets, click here.