A Chorus Line – Review by Tom Holehan

“A Chorus Line”, Michael Bennett’s ground-breaking Pulitzer Prize winning musical from 1975, is currently enjoying an impressive revival at Westchester Broadway Theatre. The Elmsford, New York dinner theatre should settle in for a popular run with this modern classic about a group of Broadway dancers at an open audition. Time has not dimmed the theatre legend.

With music by Marvin Hamlish, lyrics by Edward Kleban and book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, “A Chorus Line” was the “Hamilton” of its day changing all established rules about what a hit Broadway show could be. Produced on a mostly bare stage without intermission and with limited costume changes, the show takes place one long day at an audition as a group of “gypsies” all compete with each other for a few available roles. We learn the back-stories of many of these performers, some humorous, some very sad, and get to know and root for all of them to eventually succeed. That heart of “A Chorus Line” has been preserved in Westchester under director/choreographer Mark Martino who wisely resists trying to fuss with or improve on Michael Bennett’s landmark work.

The WBT revival features a strong company of singers/dancers bringing new life to a remarkable score that begins with the thrilling opener, “I Hope I Get It”. Individual performers then have the opportunity to take center stage and strut their stuff. Drew Carr’s rendition of “I Can Do That” is a ferocious tap number that truly delivers while “At the Ballet” finds Lauren Sprague, Emily Kelly and Kelsey Walston in gorgeous counterpart as they each reveal childhoods redeemed only by taking ballet. Alexandra Matteo, in the plum role of Diana, gets to sing both “Nothing” and the musical’s signature song, “What I Did for Love” and scores with each.

Also in the company is a very strong David Elder who avoids all the clichés playing Zach, the director running the audition. As Cassie, his ex-girlfriend back for a chance in the spotlight, Erica Mansfield is a force of nature dancing the demanding solo “Music and the Mirror” and bringing down the house in the process. And though his long sad monologue about growing up gay has always been a tad mawkish for my tastes, Michael John Hughes brings depth and critical poignancy to the role of Paul.

Some caveats. The singing and dancing remains top-notch throughout, but some of the acting squanders or overplays many of the musical’s comic moments. Logan Mortier’s cynical stories about his Buffalo hometown are pushed and unfunny and Ms. Walston misses much of the humor of Sheila’s seen-it-all-done-it-all façade. Still, Andrew Gmoser’s lighting design stays true to Tharon Musser’s state-of-the-art original and the orchestra, under the musical direction of Bob Bray, would make Mr. Hamlish very proud. “A Chorus Line” is still a period classic that will always be worth reviving especially in polished productions like the one in Elmsford.

“A Chorus Line” continues at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, New York through April   1, 2018. For further information or ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 914.592.2222 or visit: www.broadwaytheatre.com

 

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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