Review: A CHORUS LINE at ARTS Theatre

A song and dance show about auditioning for a song and dance show.

By: May. 27, 2023
Review: A CHORUS LINE at ARTS Theatre

Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Thursday 25th May 2023.

A Chorus Line, a great musical inspired by the lives of real chorus members in New York, is in the hands and feet of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, a truly singular sensation.

Even as the dancers mill around onstage, the magic begins. Mark DeLaine and his fourteen multi-instrumentalists create the most superb backing I’ve ever heard from the pit in the Arts Theatre. They are actually behind the stage and are only finally visible right at the end.

I have never liked the phrase ‘triple threat’ to describe performers who can sing, dance, and deliver a line of dialogue. Capable or versatile will do, and this cast is outstanding. Even the backline dancers, whose stories aren’t told, take to Sarah Williams’s choreography with energy and technical skill.

The individual stories are beautifully told in memorable songs and ensembles. When I first heard the company was doing this show, my head was filled with the great tunes and lyrics.

David MacGillivray is Zach. He’s casting for a show and only needs eight dancers from the crew on stage. Sitting at his desk in the auditorium, prowling the aisles or moving across the stage he’s a commanding figure. Director Gordon Combes has chosen well. Indeed, the casting throughout is impressive, and Combes works with them and his collaborators to deliver a show that is more than just its highlights, though those highlights shine out well on the stage of the Arts Theatre.

Newcomer, Allycia Angeles, is really something, singing Nothing, about a Puerto Rican student in a very Anglo theatre class, and Laura Williams sings up a storm as sassy Val whose initial description as, “dance: ten, looks: three”, sent her off to cosmetic surgery and an inflated chance of success. Liam Phillips is Mike who takes his sister’s place at dance class and is hooked. I Can do That, he sings, and he certainly can.

The show is not all about heroic aspiration, up the steep and narrow stairway to success. Zach’s former partner turns up. He doesn’t want her in the show. She’s too good, but she wants to get back on stage. Alana Shepherdson’s Cassie is excellent and her solo, The Music and the Mirror, is a real highlight. The downside of the business is that it all hinges on your physical mobility, and when young Paul San Marco injures his recently operated-on knee, his life is over. His story of his family discovering him dancing in drag is heartbreaking. Lachlan Stieger will break your heart. He sure broke mine.

I would have loved to sit in on the auditions and the rehearsals of this show. Adelaide possesses a great tradition of music theatre and this production shows it off. Dancing, singing, and acting are all delivered with the decades-old G and S production standards. When, after what must have been lightning-fast costume changes, they all come back glittering and golden for the finale, you know you’ve had a Broadway experience without leaving town.

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