BWW Review: Syracuse University Department of Drama Begins Season with A CHORUS LINE at Syracuse Stage
The Syracuse University Department of Drama has begun its 2019-2020 season with Michael Bennett's groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize and Tony-award winning musical A Chorus Line under the impressive direction of Brian J. Marcum. The authenticity, the emotion, the power, and the dancing bring a chilling production showcasing spot-on talent of a stellar cast.
With the memorable music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante this musical explores what it is really like for a dancer or performer to get a role on stage. Dancers and performers are faced with intense auditions, a lot of competition, and much judgment. A Chorus Line digs deeper into the lives of the chorus dancers, all at various stages of their career, auditioning in an empty theatre for an upcoming Broadway musical. For the audition, the dancers must of course dance; however, they must also share why they dance and look back into memories, good or bad.
Obviously, this is a dance show. Brian J. Marcum's choreography brings the classic musical to life as all the dancers stand on the line and have their spotlight moment. The energy, the passion, and the detail of the intricate dancing is show-stopping. The seven-person orchestra, under the always impressive musical direction of Brian Cimmet, brings the power and energy of the toe-tapping tunes.
The musical is set in an empty theatre, therefore there are no flashy sets. The beautiful simplicity of mirrors, designed by Alex Koziara, brings the stage to life. Maranda DeBusk's lighting design is also simplistic with typically just the one bright spotlight. The simplicity of this show is what makes the musical so chilling, real, and breathtaking, allowing the performances to take center stage.
Having seen many of the other university productions at Syracuse Stage there are many familiar and memorable faces in the cast along with a few new ones. The consistency, talent, and professionalism of the cast should come as no surprise. Syracuse University, without a doubt, showcases some truly standout performers.
The intensity and excitement of the opening number "I Hope I Get It" is absolute perfection as the entire ensemble takes the stage with their own individual dance look by costume designer Lindsey Quay Voorhees. The ensemble cast showcases great talent and chemistry.
Noah Lentini as Mike entertains as his character explains how and why he dances in "I Can Do That." He commands the stage as he taps away during the story of becoming a dancer after watching his sister at her dance lessons and taking her place. His charming stage presence is memorable.
"At the Ballet" proves to be a true standout number as Candice Hatakeyama as Sheila, Kate Jarecki as Maggie, and Rachel Kay as Bebe take the stage delivering truly passionate and powerful performances. Candice Hatakeyama as Sheila is confident, poised, and comedic. She brings the house down with her impressive stage presence. Kate Jarecki, considering her past roles, certainly knows her way around a powerhouse performance, showing off her effortless Broadway belt as she portrays Maggie. Jarecki is consistently mesmerizing on stage. Rachel Kay as Bebe lights up the stage with her emotional and expressive vocals. All three women deliver a breathtaking performance.
"Sing" is always an entertaining number as husband and wife, Kristine and Al, help each other out at the audition. Kristine has no trouble with the dancing. It is her singing that is the problem. Emily Britt delivers an entertaining performance as Kristine. JT Tully shows off his impressive vocals as Al. Britt and Tully are obviously having a blast on stage together as their impeccable chemistry take center stage.
Isabel Rodriguez as Diana brings a powerful performance of "Nothing" sending chills down your spine. Her spunk, vocals, and performance lit up the stage. She then opens the familiar and classic number "What I did For Love" with pure, raw emotion as the rest of the ensemble joins in. There was not a dry eye in the house as the powerful number unfolded.
Haley Ayers as Val entertains with "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" as she shows off in the amusing number. She delivers a spunky and comedic performance in the confident role.
"The Music and the Mirror" is a truly breathtaking and emotional number as Cassie lays out her heart and her need to dance. Carly Caviglia as Cassie delivers a dynamic performance as she dazzles performing Marcum's enchanting choreography. Caviglia's performance did not disappoint in the iconic role of Cassie.
Weston Barnwell as Zach showcases his superb line delivery while often speaking from the back of the audience. His professionalism and maturity are a standout. It is Kevin Morrison as Paul that brings a chilling and breathtaking performance as he delivers Paul's monologue with real and raw emotion. Morrison's believable and emotional acting steals the show.
The rest of the ensemble each has their standout moment. Blake Brewer as Richie often shows off his effortless dance moves. Ryan Byrne as Bobby brings non-stop confidence and attitude in the role. Anju Cloud delivers a spunky performance as Connie. Joshua Kring shows off his comedic charm as Mark. Joshua Keen as Don dazzles with his dance skills. Mieke Moll as Judy is memorable and delightful in the charming role. Camille Theriault as Laura shows off her moves as she "teaches" the dancers the choreography. Damon Robert Williams brings confidence and comedic charm to his role as Greg.
For the finale the entire ensemble is decked out in gold leotards and top hats as they perform "One (reprise)." This is a showstopper and the crowd certainly went crazy. The result was stunning.
Syracuse University Department of Drama did not disappoint with their incredibly real and raw production of "A Chorus Line." The love of performing, the passion for the roles, and the dedication these students have for the musical itself is stunning. It just goes to show a musical does not always need flashy lights, over the top sets, and overpowering costumes. The story and music take center stage in "A Chorus Line" and Syracuse University's production is a must see.
Running time: Two Hours and fifteen minutes with no intermission.
The Syracuse University Department of Drama's production of A Chorus Line runs from October 5, 2019 through October 13, 2019 at the Storch Theatre at the Syracuse Stage SU Drama Complex, 820 E. Genesee Street in Syracuse, New York. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions part of SU Department of Drama 2019-2020 season click here. For information on upcoming productions at Syracuse Stage click here.