Academy Players' final show of their season is "A Chorus Line", a musical based on the lives and experiences of Broadway dancers. Original director/choreographer Michael Bennett wanted to do a show with the spotlight on that class of performers known as "gypsies'' not the stars, but the unknown dancers, the faceless artists that persevere in the chorus, suffering through the endless auditions and almost constant rejections that come with life in the theatre. "A Chorus Line" broke away from the rigid story line of traditional musicals, instead weaving together the stories of the ensemble cast into a seamless whole. The show opened on April 15, 1975 and ran 6,137 performances, closing on April 28, 1990, winning 9 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Director Michael Farrelly creates a fabulous version of this show with his multitalented cast, the wonderful musical direction of Joe Carvalho and the energetic and fantastic choreography of Adam Crowe, Michelle Pezzelli and Sheri Masiello. Michael keeps the production values for this show at a high level, bringing Broadway style entertainment for RI audiences to enjoy.
From the opening montage of ballet, tap and jazz movements to the final kick, the magnificent choreography flows over into the audience, one number after the other. Adam Crowe recreates Michael Bennett's choreography for the opening and closing numbers as well as many others and does a terrific job with thhis hard working cast. He and the other choreographers mold this cast into dancing marvels. Michael makes the most of the comic moments with some of the one liners supplied by an uncredited Neil Simon but it is in the dramatic monologue by Paul and the emotionally draining "What I Did For Love" sequence that tugs your heartstrings, giving the show its poignant backbone to fully satisfy the audience. Joe and his orchestra are topnotch and the harmonies of the chorus are lush and lovely to listen to.
This talented cast is lead by Neil Santoro who plays Zach, the director/choreographer of the show within a show. His strict and seemingly omnipresent control of his dancers is excellent as are his confrontation scene with Cassie and his consolation scene with Paul. Neil knows how to handle dramatic and comic scenes and makes every bit of his dialogue hit paydirt. Playing Cassie, Zach's former girlfriend, is Lisa Clough. Zach can't understand why Cassie wants to return to the chorus line after 10 years, he confronts her about it while Cassie explains her motives in "The Music and the Mirror" in a dance routine with seven other girls. Cassie just wants the chance to show Zach that she still has what it takes to return to Broadway. Lisa's best dramatic moment occurs during the scene where the cast is learning "One" for the very first time. She stands up to being bullied finally showing Zach that she knows what she wants. Bethany Giammarco shines in the role of Diana. Her Puerto Rican accent is perfect and her tremendous voice sells the comic song, "Nothing" about a terrible improv theatre teacher and the emotional anthem of this show, "What I Did For Love" with the harmonic chorus part blending perfectly with it. TK Armstrong is dynamite as Paul who delivers the tearjerking monologue about being molested as a child at the movies, eventually becoming a drag queen in the Jewel Box Theatre who is seen by his parents on closing night and is finally accepted by his father when he calls him, son. Michael's blocking of this emotionally charged scene is one of the best I've seen.
Bobby Lima as Mike, does a fabulous job in this show especially with the opening solo number called "I Can Do That", performing a dynamite tap dance. The character explains how he took his sister's shows to dance class one day and became a dancer. ( I saw Bobby four years ago as Albert Peterson in "Bye, Bye, Birdie'' and it is great to see him play another leading role again.) One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Jackie Granja as Sheila, the bitchy 30 year old diva. She has some of Simon's best biting and cutting one liners, delivering them in a throaty, sexy voice and makes each one of them obtain the laughter they deserve. She also uses this sultry voice in her singing, too. Jackie, Kim Kalunian as Maggie and Jamie Dellorco as Bebe sing the touching "At the Ballet' number which tells about their tough family life while growning up. Both Kim and Jamie get to show off their awesome soprano singing voices in this song. Another comic role is Val, played by pretty blond haired, Erica Lindblad who sings and dances up a storm in her tits and ass number called "Dance 10, Looks 3". Her strong belting voice soars over the audience and the colorful language is hilarious, eliciting many laughs from the crowd. Other funny roles include Bobby played by Ryan Romanowski ( clad in a loud pink pants and bright yellow sweater) whose anecdotes about his family, are a hoot including one where he spray painted a kid with silver paint, Greg played by Frank Borrelli, who changed his name because he was Jewish, walked around during puberty with a constant hard on and realized he was gay while feeling a girl's boobs, Judy played by Rachel Ladd who is high energy and bubbly as the girl who lost her number at the beginning of the show and Mark played by Michael Marchak who is the youngest auditioner at 20 years old and gets to tell a humorous story about thinking he had gonorrhea when he had a wet dream at the age of 13. (Michael is off to college in sunny California in the fall.) Steve Dulude and Trish St. Laurent as Al and Kristine are a riot in the "Sing" number where the audience finds out Kristine can't sing so Al sings all her answers in his strong tenor voice. (In real life, Trish has a lovely soprano voice.) The married dancer Don is played by Steve Michelsson who explains that he needs this job to support his wife and two kids while the basketball playing kindergarten teacher-to-be, Richie is played by Jared Lex Grande (he gets to show off his tenor voice during "Hello 12" number) and the shortest member of the line, Connie is played by Cheryl Glickman. All of them have their moments to strut their stuff. Hard working stage manager, Jo Ann Maccarone keeps the show running smoothly all night long. So for a trip back to 1975, be sure to catch this fantastic, high energy musical before it dances out of town. Tell them Tony sent you to see this show at the gorgeous Columbus Theatre in Providence, RI.