Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Chorus Line"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"A Chorus Line"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Studio Theatre's current show 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 17 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 show opened on April 15, 1975 and ran 6,137 performances, closing on April 28, 1990. Director Roger Machado Fournier creates a topnotch version of this show with his talented cast, the fabulous musical direction of Eli Bigelow and the energetic and fantastic choreography of Jen Bellanti. They create a terrific musical treat for Massachusetts audiences to savor.

This version of the show is performed without an intermission and it flows along beautifully.From the opening montage to the final kick line, the wonderful choreography comes forth one number after the other. Jen does a super job with this hard working cast. Roger blocks the show wonderfully especially Paul's monologue where he has him moving around the stage instead of standing still. 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 skill with the dramatic moments that stand out especially the confrontation between Zach and Cassie which is riddled with tension, leaving you breathless at its impact. Also the gut wrenching, heartbreaking and stunning 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. Eli not only leads his 6 piece orchestra but plays the lead keyboards for it, too.The whole orchestra is one of the best I have ever heard do this show especially impressive is the percussionist and trumpet. (I think Eli's whole family made up four of the instruments in it.)The harmonies of the chorus, the solos, duets and trios are lovely to listen to. Hard working stage manager John Nunes keeps things running smoothly all night long.

This talented cast is lead by Jeff Belanger 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 topnotch as are his confrontation scene with Cassie and his consolation scene with Paul. Jeff handles the dramatic and comic scenes beautifully. Jen not only choreographs the show but plays Cassie wonderfully. Cassie is Zach's former girlfriend and he can't understand why she wants to return to the chorus line after 10 years. Zach confronts her about it and Cassie explains her motives in "The Music and The Mirror". The number shows off Jen's excellent dancing skills. Her standout acting moment comes when she stands up to Zach during the first version of "One". Ali Angelone, a fantastic dancer plays Zach's assistant choreographer in this show beautifully. (I first reviewed Ali 10 years ago when she played the little red haired girl in Charlie Brown at RIC.) Jennifer Morin is wonderful as Diana. Her acting is marvelous and her terrific voice sells "Nothing" the comic song about Mr. Carp her awful improvisation teacher and the emotional anthem of his show, "What I Did for Love". which leaves the audience in tears. The harmonic blend of the chorus soars with her in this number. Alexander Cruz is dynamic as Paul.(He is a student at RIC and will be appearing Pippin there.) He is not only an excellent dancer but his voice is tops in "Who am I Anyway?". He also delivers the heartbreaking monologue about being molested at the movies, eventually becoming a drag queen in the Jewel Box Theatre where Paul is seen by his parents on closing night and is finally accepted by his father when he tells them to take care of his son. When he starts to cry, the audience cries right along with him, winning him applause at the close of the scene.

Bill Lavasseur does a fantastic job as Mike with the opening solo number called "I Can Do That" where he performs a soft shoe dance. Mike explains how he took his sister's shows to dance class one day and became the dancer in the family after that. One of the most comical performers in this show is Pamela Morgan as Sheila, the bitchy 30 year old diva.(I reviewed Pam last August as Mishkin in "Fools") She has some of Neil Simon's best biting and cutting one liners, making them all hit pay dirt. Pam also uses this sultry voice in her singing, too. She, Erin Cote as Maggie and Stacy Tinkham as Bebe sing the touching number "At The Ballet" which tells about their tough family life while growing up and how they escaped from it at ballet class. Both also show off their soprano voices in this song. Another hilarious role is Val played by 16 year old Taylor DeMoranville who sings and dances up a storm in her tits and ass number called "Dance 10, Looks 3". Her strong belting voice soars out to the audience and her character's colorful language garners much laughter, too. The married couple Al and Kristine are well played by Marc Paul Jaillet and Maeve Donnelly. Their song "Sing" is where the audience learns that Kristine can't sing so Al sings all her answers. Other comic roles include Bobby played by Eric Pereira who tells anecdotes about spray painting a friend silver and breaking into people's houses to rearrange their furniture, Greg played by Seth Paul Goulart who changed his name because he is Jewish and went through puberty with a hard on, Judy played by Dustyn Houde who is a bubbly red head who loses her number at the start of the show , Mark who is played by Corey Santos, tells a funny story about thinking he had gonorrhea when he had a wet dream when he was 13. One of the strongest tenor voices in the show belongs to Robin Weldon as Richie, the basketball playing teacher-to-be. His voice soars off the charts in his section of "Hello, 12" (I last reviewed Robin as Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast last May) and the shortest member of the line Connie played by Carissa Frazier. Alex Leite is the married dancer who tells a funny story about a strip club with Lola, a stripper with big boobs. The cut dancers do a great job in the show, too. Kudos to everyone for making this a show to be very proud of.

"A Chorus Line" (5 - 7 March)
@ Durfee High School Auditorium, Elsbree Street, FALL RIVER MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide