BWW Reviews: A CHORUS LINE Shines Spotlight on Those Used to Being in the Background

BWW Reviews: A CHORUS LINE Shines Spotlight on Those Used to Being in the Background
Photo: Jeri Shafer

A CHORUS LINE is one of those shows that should be a prerequisite for anyone considering a career in the performing arts.

The Short North Stage's show, which opens April 10 at the Garden Theater (1187 North High Street in downtown Columbus), not only shows the hardships 22 dancers go through to land just in the chorus line of a Broadway, it also introduces the audience to just about every type of actor/singer/dancer every hopeful is bound to meet. It deals with the issues they struggle with: body image, demanding directors and the pain of rejection when they're dismissed with a simple "Thank you. Next."

In a short period of time, Short North Stage has become associated with elaborate staging, spot on singing and engaging performances. While A CHORUS LINE's pretty meager (five mirrors and a few dance bars), the theatre group continues deliver engrossing performances.

Nick Lingnofski is perfectly cast as Zach, a draconian director in a cardigan sweater. As he and his assistant choreographer Larry (Cornelius Hubbard) pare down the 17 hopefuls to a cast of four males and four females, Zach makes it clear what he's looking for: "You must blend. I don't want anyone to pull my eye."

If Zach were truly casting this show, he might have a big problem on his hands. Nearly every person in the 24-member cast is hard to stop watching.

Among the female dancers vying for the audience's attention are Dionysia Williams (who plays Cassie) and Kaitlin Descutner (Sheila). Williams' character tries to return to being a chorus girl after a failed stint in Hollywood. She realizes she will never be the major star Zach (her ex-boyfriend) believes she could be.

On the other hand, Descutner's Sheila is convinced she's going to be the next big thing. When asked to move from the front row of the dancers on one number, she stands motionlessly. Zach asks her if she doesn't know the choreography, Sheila responds "I did ... for the first row."

However Williams and Descutner are only part of a talented group of actresses. Samantha Gershman (Diana) lights up the stage with her ballad, "Nothing" and takes on lead vocals for "What I Did For Love." Chrissy Stridsberg (Bebe), Brooke Walter (Maggie), Ayana Freeman (Connie) and Lauren Schorr (Judy) are just part of the talented ensemble.

For a large part of the play, Lingnofski is just an interrogator off stage, encouraging the hopefuls to tell him something real about themselves. That thrusts the spotlight on the eight male contenders. Jeff Fouch shines as Mike in his dance number, "I Can Do That" and Luke Stewart is charming in his portrayal of Bobby, whose comedic persona is a cover for a darker past.

But the star of the night might go to Luka Ashley Carter who excels as Paul, the introverted dancer who struggled with telling his family he's gay. Paul is one of those roles can make a show succeed or capsize it. Carter's moving portrayal will stick with audiences long after the show ends.

In the end, those who have never seen the show before are left guessing who of this very talented will be the ones who make the cut. Those who have seen the show time and time again will be pleased director Edward Carignan didn't try to alter or update A CHORUS LINE. He simply let his actors shine through it.

A CHORUS LINE will be performed 8 p.m. April 9-11, 16-18 and 23-25 and 3 p.m. April 12, April 19, and April 26 at the Short North Theatre's Garden Theatre (1187 North High Street in downtown Columbus). For more information, call 614.725.4042.

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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