THEATER CIRCUIT A CHORUS LINE
By Roz Friedman
“I Really Need This Job!” With the discussion of the economy ever present, there is something in that line that resonates even more dramatically when sung by the oh-so-very young and gifted cast of the Tony Award-winning A Chorus Line in the present Broadway National Tour. I recently saw it at the Phil—short for the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples. This dancers’ musical will play at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury, Connecticut from February 26-28th and the audience is in for a big treat—“One—singular sensation,” as the song goes.
A Chorus Line, with its breakthrough confessional style, paved the way for a new kind of musical. Spring Awakening and Next to Normal are just two influenced by it. This newly-revised production which opened on Broadway several years ago is directed by Bob Avian, who was the co-choreographer with the late, great Michael Bennett; Bennett conceived and directed the original in 1975. James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante wrote the Book. The Choreography is Re-staged by Baayork Lee. The score composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Edward Kleban consists of only twelve songs, but each is still a gem.
The Company of 25, auditioning for 8 spots in the chorus of a Broadway show, 4 girls, 4 boys, begins with the urgent, “I Hope I Get It.” Interspersed between and during verses, we meet the individual dancers, and watch them as they are led by Zach, well-played here by Derek Hanson, through their grueling paces. When they are lined up across the stage, he asks for their age, where they are from, and most importantly their stories. Who are they? What is important to each of them? When did they begin dancing? What will they do when they can no longer pursue their passion?
There’s Mike (Andy Mills), who leads off brightly with, “I Can Do That;” As Sheila, portrayed in beautiful haute fashion by Ashley Yeater, in a champagne-leotard painted onto her body, intones the sadly nostalgic “At the Ballet;” Kristen Martin is petite blond Val, who charms in “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” that tells us about her necessary plastic surgery to compete with the more buxom and more beautiful in her profession. We remember Kristen well from the Goodspeed Opera House as Peggy the star of 42nd Street. Rebecca Riker, with her black hair and red dress, is a vibrant Cassie, begging her old beau Zach to give her a chance in the chorus. Hilary Thompson is adorably ditzy as Kristine, who can’t sing; Nathan Lucrezio is fine as her husband, Al. Nicky Venditti delivers a moving monologue as Paul. The pivotal role in A Chorus Line is Diana, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, who has never fit in. Depicted here by Selina Verastigui who possesses a good strong voice, Diana in “Nothing,” recalls her failure to find emotion in a class at the Performing Arts High School with Mr. Karp. The second is “What I Did for Love,” which still evokes tears. The only drawback to this production is the lighting adapted by Natasha Katz from Tharon Musser’s original. It is far too dark and obscures the actors.
A Chorus Line gives us insight into the life of performers, whose hard work and talent never cease to impress.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO