The first show of Theatre by the Sea's 77th season is "A Chorus Line", the 1976 winner of Tony Award 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 15 dancers it 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, 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/choreographer Mitzi Hamilton creates a wonderful version of this show with her talented cast and with her energetic and fabulous choreography as well as the topnotch musical direction of Andrew Smithson. Together they create a musical treat to start off their new season with a bang.
Owner and producer, Bill Hanney, Producing Artistic Director Amiee Turner and Managing producer Joel Kipper spare no expense to bring Broadway style entertainment to the south coast of RI every summer. This version of the show is performed without an intermission.From the opening montage of ballet, tap and jazz movements to the final chorus line, the majestic choreography flows over the audience, one song after the other. Mitzi does a fabulous job choreographing this very hard working cast and is best known for her association with Michael Bennett's original production of "A Chorus Line" and provided the inspiration for the character of Val, playing the character in the original London and later on Broadway. Subsequently she went on to recreate over 35 productions of the show in Europe, the United States and Asia.on Broadway. She molds them into brilliant dancers and has them make the most of the comic moments with some of the one-liners supplied by an uncredited Neil Simon as well as the comic songs "Sing" and "Dance Ten, Looks Three". She also stages the dramatic moments wonderfully including the confrontation scene between Zach and Cassie, the touching monologue by Paul and the emotionally draining "What I Did For Love". Andrew not only leads his 7 piece orchestra but plays the lead keyboards for the show, too. The harmonies of the cast in their solos, duets and trios are beautiful to listen to. The many beautiful costumes are by Marcia Zammerelli who has won several Motif awards for her costumes the past few years and most impressive are the finale costumes and Bobby's hand painted sweater. Hard working stage manager Robert Miller Jr. keeps things running smoothly all night long. The lighting is by Joel E. Silver, the set is by Kathryne Hecht and the sound by Ryan P. McGinty.
This talented cast is lead by Tom Berklund as Zach the director/choreographer of the show within a show. He played Greg in the revival of this show on Broadway. His physical presence onstage and control of them is wonderful as are his confrontation scene with Cassie and his consolation scene with Paul.Tom handles the dramatic and comic scenes marvelously. He also shows off his fantastic dancing prowess in this role. Amiee Turner makes her Theatre-by-the Sea debut in the role of Cassie, Zach's former girlfriend. However Amiee is no stranger to the stage, having appeared in six shows on Broadway and having also directed "Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", "George M!", "Evita", "Crazy for You" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" at TBTS. 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". Amiee stops the show with her solo dance number with its intensity and her execution of this beautiful number. It shows off her dancing and singing prowess, earning her a thunderous ovation as she exits the stage. Cassie wants the chance to show Zach that she still has what it takes to return to Broadway. Larry A. Lozier Jr.,a fabulous dancer plays Zach's assistant choreographer, Larry wonderfully. Jennifer Rias is marvelous as Diana. Her acting prowess comes through in this role when she displays the many layers of emotions as this character. Her lovely singing voice sells the comic song "Nothing" about her terrible improvisation teacher which garners her much laughter as well as the emotion packed anthem of this show "What I Did For Love" which leaves the audience in tears. The harmonic blend of the chorus on this number doesn't leave a dry eye in the theater with its powerful punch. Yamil DeJesus is Paul who is not only an excellent dancer but shows off his tenor voice in "Who am I Anyway?" and gives the monologue a poignant rendition especially when Tom as Zach embraces him at its conclusion.
Jonathan Hoover does a topnotch job as Mike especially with his opening solo number "I Can Do That'' where the character explains how he took his sister's shoes to dance class one day and how he became the dancer in the family. One of the funniest performers in this show is Caroline Cuseo as Sheila, the bitchy 30 year old diva. She has some of Neil Simon's best biting and cutting one liners. She is a sexy red head who delivers them in a sultry voice and makes every one of them hit pay dirt. She also uses this sexy voice in her singing, too. She, Holly Laurent as Maggie and Megan Glogower as Bebe sing "At the Ballet" number which tells about their tough family life while growing up and how they escaped from it at dance class. Holly, a gorgeous brunette has one of the best voices in this show and she shows off her fantastic soprano singing voice in this song while Megan shows off her strong mezzo voice. I reviewed Holly in "Jesus Christ Superstar" at NSMT in 2006. (Bill Hanney recently bought NSMT and is opening it in July.) Another hilarious role is Val played fantastically by Emmett Louise Smith, a gorgeous blonde who sings and dances up a storm in her tits and ass number called "Dance 10, Looks 3". Her powerful belting voice soars over the audience and that partnered with the colorful language of Val, earns her many laughs in this role. Other comic roles include Bobby played by Tripp Hampton whose anecdotes are a hoot including one where he sprayed a kid with silver paint, Greg played by Jeremy Bohmstein , 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 Jessica Wockenfuss is high energy and bubbly as the girl who lost her number at the start of the show and Mark played by Will Porter 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. Jake Delaney as Al and Amanda LaMotte as Kristine are a laugh riot in the "Sing" number where the audience learns the Kristine can't sing so Al sings all her answers in his strong tenor voice while the basketball playing teacher-to-be, Richie is played by Tyrick Wiltez Jones who shows off his dynamite voice and dancing skills during "Hello 12" which is one of the strongest ensemble numbers in the show. Congratulations to everyone who makes this a show to be extremely proud of. An added perk to opening night festivities at Bistro by the Sea is Duane and Karleen Crowe's delicious buffet after the show which consists of roast ham, meatballs, cheese and crackers with veggies and chocolate cake. All the food disappeared quickly. Be sure to catch "A Chorus Line" before it dances its way out of Matunuck.