Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Chorus Line"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"A Chorus Line"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The opening show of Community Players 89th season is "A Chorus Line, the 1976 winner of Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best book and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is 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 the class of performers known as the gypsies.The action takes place in an empty theatre, on a bare stage, where the casting for a new Broadway musical is almost complete. For 17 dancers, this is a chance of a lifetime. It's the one opportunity to do what they have always dreamed of, not to be the star but to get a job, to have the chance to dance. Through a series of interviews, from funny to heartbreaking, "A Chorus Line" ushers the audience into the lives of these dancers until the final 8 are chosen. The original show opened on April 15, 1975 and ran 6,137 performances, closing on April 28, 1990. Director Daniel Kirby creates a fabulous version of this show with his multitalented cast, the excellent musical direction of Ron Procopio and the energetic and fantastic choreography of Lennie Machado. They keep the production values of this show high, bringing Broadway style entertainment to RI for their audiences to enjoy.

From the opening montage of ballet, tap and jazz movements to the final kick line, the magnificent choreography flows over the audience, one number after the other. Lennie does a terrific job with this hard working cast. He molds this cast into dancing marvels and he also is a topnotch singer, actor and dancer. Dan knows this show very well having appeared in it at City Nights in 1988 where he played the role of Al. He makes the most of the comic moments with some of the one liners supplied by an uncredited Neil Simon as well as the comic songs "Dance 10" and "Sing". However it is his expertise with the dramatic moments that stand out especially the confrontation between Zach and Cassie which is riddled with tension and the dramatic impact will leave you breathless. Also the gut wrenching, touching and riveting monologue by Paul finally being accepted by his father, and the emotionally draining "What I Did For Love" sequence that tugs at your heartstrings, giving the show its poignant backbone to fully satisfy the audience.(I directed Dan in Marvin Hamlisch's 1979 musical "They're Playing Our Song twenty years ago.) Ron not only leads the orchestra for the show but plays the lead keyboards for it, too. He and his 7 piece orchestra members are marvelous including his sons RJ on guitar and Buddy on percussion. The harmonies of the chorus, the solos, duets and trios are lush and lovely to listen to. The mirror set design is by Brian Mulvey and constructed by Victor Turenne and his set crew. Sound and lighting design is excellently executed by Dan Fisher with Emily Varden running the lighting board. Costume coordinator Pam Jackson rents the outstanding gold finale costumes from Costume World Theatrical. Hard working stage manager Cherry Cartier keeps things running smoothly all night long.

This talented cast is lead by Gregory Gillis as Zach, the director/choreographer of the show within a show. His physical presence onstage with the dancers and his strict omnipresent control of them, is excellent as are his confrontation scene with Cassie and his consolation scene with Paul. Greg handles the dramatic and comic scenes beautifully, making every bit of his dialogue meaningful. His real life wife, Jennifer Gillis plays Cassie, Zach's former girlfriend.Greg and Jen met at Community Players and were married in 1995. She is one of the best Cassie's I have seen. (Jen knows this show inside out having directed it about ten years ago.) Zach can't understand why Cassie wants to return to the chorus line after 10 years and confronts her about it while Cassie explains her motives in "The Music and the Mirror". Jen is outstanding in her solo, stopping the show with its intensity. This number shows off her dancing and singing expertise which wins her a thunderous ovation as she leaves the stage. Cassie wants the chance to show Zach that she still has what it takes to return to Broadway. Jen's standout acting moment occurs when she stands up to his bullying during the scene where the cast is first learning "One" finally showing Zach she knows what she wants. Andrew Bobola, a fantastic dancer plays Zach's assistant choreographer wonderfully. Taryn Mallard-Reid is fabulous as Diana. Her acting is excellent with her showing the many layers of emotions as this character and her marvelous voice sells the comic song "Nothing" about her terrible improv teacher and the emotional anthem of this show, "What I Did For Love" which leaves the audience in tears. It has the harmonic chorus blending perfectly with her on it. Albert Jennings who played numerous roles at Theatre-by-the-Sea this past summer, is dynamite as Paul. He is not only an excellent dancer but his tenor voice soars in "Who am I Anyway?". Albert also delivers the tear-jerking monologue about being molested at the movies, eventually becoming a drag queen in the Jewel Box Theatre. Paul is seen by his parents on closing night where he is finally accepted by his father when he tells them to take care of his son. When he starts to cry during this sequence, the audience cries along with him as I did , too. The crowd gives him loud applause for a job very well done.

Tim Reid, Taryn's real life husband, does a fabulous job as Mike especially with the opening solo number called "I Can Do That", performing a dynamic tap dance. The character explains how he took his sister's shoes to dance class one day and became the dancer in the family. One of funniest performers in this show is Lia Del Sesto as Sheila, the bitchy 30 year old diva. She has some of Neil Simon's best biting and cutting one liners, delivering them in a sexy voice and makes each of them hit pay dirt. Lia also uses this sultry voice in her singing, too. She, Sarah Pothier as Maggie, and Christine Lariviere as Bebe sing the touching "At The Ballet" number which tells about their tough family life while growing up and how they escaped from it at ballet class. Both show off their terrific soprano singing voices in this song. (Sarah was an intern at TBTS this summer.) Another hilarious role is Val played by pretty Melanie Gendrau who wears a platinum blonde wig, 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 garners her many laughs from the crowd. Melanie went from Mary Magdalene in "Superstar" to a vamp in this show which shows off her range as an actress. Other funny roles include Bobby played by Kevin Patrick Martin who also performed in shows at TBTS in 2008 and will be starring in "42nd Street" for two months in Florida when CL closes, whose anecdotes are a hoot including one where he spray painted a kid with silver paint, Greg played by Michael DiMascolo, who changed his name because he was Jewish, walked around with a constant hard on during puberty and realized he was gay while feeling a girl's boobs, Judy played by Allison St. Rock, a statuesque red head who is high energy and bubbly as the girl who lost her number at the start of the show and Mark played by Joseph Catanzaro who is the youngest auditioner at 20 years old and gets to tell a humorous story thinking he had gonorrhea when he had a wet dream at the age of 13. Steve Dulude and Michaela Murphy are a riot in the "Sing" number where the audience learns that Kristine can't sing so Al sings all her answers in his strong tenor voice. Michaela has an excellent soprano voice in real life. (Steve and Michaela played these same roles before, Steve for Academy Players in 2007 and Michaela for Bay Colony in 2003.) The married dancer, Don is played by Tom Lavallee who explains that he needs this job to support his wife and two kids while the basketball playing teacher-to-be, Richie is played by Michael Evora who gets to show off his voice during "Hello 12" and the shortest member of the line, Connie played by Leslie Racine Vazquez. Kudos to everyone who made this a show to be very proud of. Be sure to catch this fantastic, high energy dance musical before it dances its way out of town.

"A Chorus Line" (6 - 22 November)
THE COMMUNITY PLAYERS
Jenks Auditorium, Division Street, PAWTUCKET RI
1 (401)726-6860

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