BWW Review: A CHORUS LINE - TSU's Musical Is Sensational
Texas State University's celebrated Department of Theatre and Dance produces game changing musical A CHORUS LINE with sensational style.
Conceived and originally directed and choreographed in 1975 by Michael Bennett, A CHORUS LINE features music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Winner of multiple Tony Awards, the show changed musical theatre in so many ways and paved the way for modern musicals like CATS and RENT. The story centers around a group of dancers undergoing the grueling process of a 'cattle call' audition. Cattle calls, notoriously cruel, concentrate on first impressions, an actor needs to stand out while blending in, the universal dichotomy of life in theatre. 'I Hope I Get It', the opening song, illustrates the frustration, anxiety and need of the actors on stage. The show's twist comes when director Zach (Nick Lawson), begins to ask deeply personal questions of each candidate. With varying levels of reluctance they oblige, revealing a tapestry of the human experience and more poignantly, the artist's experience. Mike (CK Anderson) begins with 'I Can Do That', a fun song about how he began dancing by copying his sister and eventually taking over her spot in dance class. Each character reveals their personal journey through song, some are light and happy like Val's (Juliette Redden) 'Dance Ten; Looks Three', a narrative about the perks of plastic surgery, while some uncover childhood pain like 'At The Ballet' sung by Sheila (Logan-Rae Floyd), Bebe (Grace Muawad) and Maggie (Christina Sasre). The show's effect on the audience is it's magic, we hurt for each dancer, we pull for them to make the cast and we cry for their pain. A CHORUS LINE holds a special place in my heart. It was the very first show I saw on Broadway, so many years ago and it's power over me hasn't diminished during all this time. TSU's production weaves its spell so well, I was in tears by the end of the show.
Director and choreographer Cassie Abate, has captured the intimate feel of the original production, bringing the audience into the audition space as a silent observer. The cast is terrifically talented, standouts include Anna Uzele as DiAna Morales, her song 'Nothing' makes the audience laugh and hits home with anyone who has ever taken an acting class and failed to connect with the teacher. Logan-Rae Floyd is brilliant as Sheila, the aging dancer who tells of her unhappy childhood and has a sassy comeback for Zach's every request. CK Anderson as Mike, the streetwise tap dancer is magnetic, his dancing is superior in an outstanding cast. As Ritchie, the would-be kindergarten teacher, Ben Toomer is funny and powerful singing one of my favorite numbers in the show, 'Gimme The Ball'. Juliette Redden's turn as Valerie Clark is hilarious and sassy as the girl who used surgical enhancement to get ahead is show business. But it's Anthony Skillman as Paul San Marco who delivers the gut punch of the show. His reluctance to reveal his past is heartbreaking when he at last brings forth his traumatic journey in his young life. Skillman is gripping in the role, bringing a sincerity to the stage that is shattering in its depth. Costumes designed by Stacey Johnson made me feel as if I were back in the 1970's where spandex was all the rage and anything with natural fibers was unattainable. The scenic design by Cheri DeVol is perfect in its bareness, as it should be, right up to the finale where sparkles are everywhere. Ethan Jones' lighting design illuminates and enhances the show without being distracting. Music direction by Greg Bolin is stellar, every note is perfection. Director Abate's choreography is stellar for the most part, but I found myself disappointed with the big dance number for 'The Music And The Mirror'. We should be wowed by character Cassie Ferguson's (Emma Hearn) star quality when she takes the spotlight, but I wasn't. While not entirely flawless A CHORUS LINE comes pretty close to perfection and had the ability to transport me back my first Broadway experience. It was a trip well worth taking. Unfortunately the September 26 thru October 1 run is all too limited, more people should have an opportunity to see this show.
A CHORUS LINE
Conceived and originally choreographed by Michael Bennett
Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Directed and choreographed by Cassie Abate
Music Direction by Greg Bolin
Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance
September 26 - October 1