Theatre Mirror Review>"A Chorus Line"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"A Chorus Line"

The newly refurbished Norwood Theatre's current show is "A Chorus Line", the 1976 winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and 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 on a bare stage, where the casting for a new musical is almost complete. For 17 dancers, it is the chance of a lifetime. It's the one opportunity to do what they have always dreamed of, not only to be the star, but a chance to get a job and have the chance to dance. Through a series of interviews from funny to heartbreaking, it ushers the audience into the lives of these dancers until the final 8 are chosen. The original Broadway show opened on April 15, 1975 and ran 6,137 performances, closing on April 28, 1990. Director/co-choreographer Dori Bryan Ployer and musical director Steve Shannon create a topnotch version of this show, creating a Broadway caliber performance in Norwood, MA.

The show is performed in two acts and flows along beautifully. From the opening montage to the final kick line, the fantastic choreography comes forth one number after the other. Dori and Vincent Ratsavong do a terrific job with this hard working cast. She blocks the show wonderfully especially Paul's poignant monologue. Dori makes the most of the one liners written for the show by an uncredited Neil Simon as well as the comic songs "Sing", "Nothing" and "Dance, Ten". However it is her skill with the dramatic moments that stand out especially the confrontation scene between Zach and Cassie which is riddled with tension leaving you breathless at its impact. Also stellar is the emotionally draining "What I Did for Love" sequence that tugs at your heartstrings, giving the show the dramatic backbone to satisfy the audience. Steve Shannon supplies the music direction for the show, leading a six piece orchestra and having taught the songs to the cast, obtaining a marvelous harmonic blend from the performers. Vincent's recreation of the original choreography is spectacular, too.

This talented cast is lead by Ken Bayliss as Zach, the choreographer/director of the show within a show. His physical presence onstage with the dancers and his strict omnipresent control of them is excellent. He handles the comic and dramatic scenes beautifully especially the confrontation scene with Cassie and the consolation scene with Paul. Ken adds a lot of depth to Zach, making it his own. Beautiful brunette Brianna Gorham plays Cassie excellently. Cassie is Zach's ex-girlfriend and he can't comprehend why she wants to return to the chorus after ten years. When Zach confronts her about it, she explains why in her show stopping dance number "The Music and the Mirror". This number displays Brianna's strong dancing skills. Her standout acting scene occurs when she stands up to Zach's bullying during the first version of "One".  She is spectacular in this role. Vincent Ratsavong, co-choreographer is a fantastic dancer and he plays Larry, Zach assistant beautifully. Lindsay Cagney does a marvelous job as the sympathetic, Diana. She has two topnotch numbers including "Nothing", the comic song about her awful improvisation teacher, Mr. Carp and the emotional anthem of the show "What I Did For Love". The harmonic blend of the chorus soars in this number. Ricky Viloria is wonderful as Paul. He delivers a touching monologue about being molested at the movies eventually becoming a drag queen at the Jewel Box Theatre. This is where Paul is seen by his parents on his closing night and is finally accepted by his father when he tells the producer to take care of his son.

John Sparling does a marvelous job as Mike and in the opening solo number "I Can Do That", he shows his dancing prowess in a tap dance. Mike explains how he took his sister's shoes to dance class one day and became the dancer in the family. One of the most comical performers in this show is Anna Mckenzie as Sheila, the bitchy 30 year old diva. She has some of Neil Simon's best biting and cutting one liners and obtains many laughs from her topnotch line delivery. Anna uses a beautiful sultry voice in her singing, too. She, Kaleigh Rose Bradley as Maggie and Laura Deschaines as Bebe sing the poignant "At The Ballet" where they explain about their tough family life while growing up and how they escaped from it. Both Kaleigh and Laura display their soaring soprano range in the show. Gorgeous blonde Emilee Dennis Leahy plays the hilarious role of gutter mouth, Val. She sings and dances up a storm in her tits and ass number called "Dance, Ten, Looks, Three" where we hear her strong belting voice. I first reviewed Emilee as Peggy Sawyer in "42nd Street" at Bay Colony in 2005. The married couple Al and Kristine are well played by Jose Merlo and Samantha Eaton Roberts. Their song "Sing" is where the audience learns that Kristine can't sing and Al must sing all her answers in the song with hilarious results.

Other comic roles played excellently include Bobby played by Alex Boyle, who tells anecdotes about spray painting a friend with silver paint and breaking into houses, rearranging the furniture. He is a hoot in this role, having reviewed him last summer in the serious role of Melchior in "Spring Awakening".Greg played by Johnnie Pironi, who changed his name because he was Jewish and went through puberty with a hard on, Judy played by Monica Adel-Azim who looses her number at the start of the show, and Mark played by Samuel Lathrop are terrific in their roles. He has a funny story about thinking he had gonorrhea and does a great job dancing,too. Three other cast members doing a good job are Christopheer Leon as Richie, the basketball playing teacher to be, Kimberlyn Drake as Connie, the shortest member of the line and Michael Hammond as Don, the married dancer who tells a story about Lola, a stripper with big boobs. The chorus number of "Hello, Twelve" stops the show with their expert singing and dancing prowess. So for a fabulous rendition of this award winning show, be sure to catch "A Chorus Line" at Norwood Theater before they dance their way out of town.

"A Chorus Line" (30 May - 1 June)
@ 109 Central Street. NORWOOD MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide