Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Chorus Line"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"A Chorus Line"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Acting Theatre Company's current show of their fifth 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. It opened on April 15, 1975 and ran for 6,137 performances, closing on April 28, 1990, winning 9 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In this version the original staging and choreography is recreated by director/choreographer Billy Johnstone, a Broadway performer who puts his own touches on the sensational dances and acting scenes in the show. His 23 member cast performs them splendidly including the comic and dramatic moments in the script while musical director Melanie Guerin and her 10 piece orchestra add some gorgeous music to complete the ingredients for a successful topnotch production. 23 year old producer, Michael Gremo keeps the production values for this show at a high level, bringing Broadway type entertainment into the heart of Worcester for local audiences to enjoy without having to travel to New York City.

From the opening montage of ballet, tap and jazz movements to the final kickline, the fantastic choreography flows over into the audience, one number after the other. Billy molds his talented cast into dancing marvels. He 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 scenes between Zach and Cassie which really soar, giving the show the needed backbone to move the audience emotionally. Billy also appeared as a performer in the record breaking and final cast of "Cats" on Broadway as well as the US and Canadian tour of "A Chorus Line", giving him the necessary experience of being on both sides of the footlights. Melanie's orchestrations and choral teachings of the cast, make the harmonies of the songs blend wonderfully. Kudos to everyone who make this into an excellent interpretation of this prize winning show.

This talented cast is lead by Jake Fisher, an internationally known dance instructor who plays Zach, the director/choreographer of the show within a show. His hard ass presence and line delivery is right on the money as are his confrontation scenes with Cassie and his consolation scene with Paul. Kirsten McKinney is fabulous as Cassie. This young woman is a superb actress, singer and dancer. Kirsten is outstanding in her solo number, "The Music and the Mirror", almost stopping the show with her excellent execution. Her powerful acting comes across in her argument with Zach about needing this job as much as she did when she first started ten years ago. Kirsten is one of the best Cassie's I've ever seen, making her standout in this line of the chorus and giving Cassie, the emotional depth that the role calls for.

Other cast members have their moments to shine, too. Maggie Marino is a talented young woman who does a tremendous job as Diana, singing the comic song, "Nothing" about a terrible improv theatre teacher and the emotional anthem of this show, "What I Did For Love" which touches the crowd with its tenderness. Maggie is a fantastic dancer, having appeared earlier this season in "Swing" and attends Wagner College on Staten Island. She first started performing at Feehan High School where I saw her perform as Hope in "Anything Goes". Dan Micciche as Paul delivers a monologue about being molested as a child at the movies and eventually becoming a drag queen in a club who is seen by his parents and is finally accepted by his father when he calls him, son. Matt Noblin does a fabulous job with the opening solo of the show called "I Can Do That" which explains how Mike took his sister's shoes to dance class one day and became a dancer. The role of Sheila, the bitchy diva, is played by Alison Bogatay. She has many biting and cutting one liners, giving the show it's comic side. Alison, Katherine Rose Horlitz as Maggie and Leah Joseph as Bebe sing the touching "At The Ballet" number which tells about their tough family life while growing up. The song gives them a chance to show off their lovely voices. One of the funniest roles is Val played by pretty blond haired, Monica Moran who sings about having plastic surgery on her tits and ass in "Dance 10, Looks 3". Her strong belting voice sells this hilarious number with ease and her colorful dialogue amuses the crowd. Some other funny roles include Bobby played by Mick Bleyer whose anecdotes about his family are a hoot including one where he spray painted a kid with silver paint, Greg played by Rance Wright, who changed his name because he was Jewish and realized he was gay while feeling a girl's breasts,Judy played by Sarah Jane Yurek is high energy as the girl who lost her number and feels she is too tall and Mark played by Aaron Benham who is the youngest auditioner at 20 years old and gets to tell a humorous story about a wet dream when he was 13. Scott Johnson and Lauren Lane Kwederis as Al and Kristine are a riot in the "Sing" number where we find out Kristine can't sing so Al sings all her answers for her in his strong tenor voice. The married dancer, Don is played by Dan Propati while the basketball playing, kindergarten teacher to be, Richie is played by Douglas Lyons and the shortest member of the line, Connie is played by Mary Katherine DeChiara. They all have their moments to strut their stuff.

Hard working stage manager, Alex Bowditch and his crew keep this show running smoothly with the excellent mood lighting by Tom Powers and the sound by Tyler Courtney. This entire season is dedicated to the memory of Michael Gremo's sister, Erika. So for a fantastic trip back to 1975, be sure to catch this high energy musical before it dances out of town. Tell them Tony sent you to see "A Chorus Line" in the gorgeous Warner Theatre at Worcester Academy. (The famous Warner Brothers went to school there and the theatre is named for them.)

"A Chorus Line" (4 - 14 August)
Warner Theatre at Worcester Academy, 81 Providence Street, WORCESTER MA
1(508) 799-0069

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide