BWW Review: Molly Lajoie's A CHORUS LINE Is A Singular Sensation
Lajoie, who enjoys a notable track record as choreographer and dancer (The Bartered Bride, Oliver, Company) and as the Teaching Artist at Childsplay, has a triumph of artistry and stagecraft on her hands.
She has literally and dramatically pulled the words out of the song (One) and, with style and verve, created her own singular sensation revolving around a thrilling combination of performers.
Between the mirrored panels and the footlights, seventeen dancers toe the line to the commands of an unrelenting director (Rob Watson) whose challenge is to draw out four boys and four girls to perform in an upcoming Broadway musical.
From the opening jazz and ballet combinations to the spirited finale, the aspiring hoofers share their stories ~ their real and stage names, their origins, their dreams and fears, their desperation for the job, and, above all, their passion for their craft. It's a splendid channeling of the fire that envelops all those that adopt the stage as their creative home.
For every character ~ from Mike (Michael Schwenke), the Italian kid who started dancing because his sister did, and Maggie (Kathlynn Rodin), who was born to save her parents' marriage, to Kristine (Malerie Jo), who wanted to be Doris Day but had a "little problem," and Richie (Kendrick Stallings) who'd planned to be a kindergarten teacher ~ there's a poignant tale to be told and a superb player delivering the narrative with a solid and evocative performance. Their longings and sacrifices are captured beautifully by Shani Barrett as Diana in the lyrics of the classic What I Did for Love.
While each performer in this show is a winner, there are some standout performances that reflect the overall excellence of this production: Kat Bailes (as Cassie, the wanna-need to-make-a- comeback-veteran), Sarah Wiechmann (as Sheila, sassy and self-absorbed and aging out), Sara Sanderson (as Val who came into her own after a doctor's appointment to buy new "tits and ass"), and Trey DeGroodt (as Paul whose revelation about his self-discovery is profoundly moving).
For those who already know the music of Marvin Hamlisch ( Steve Hilderbrand and orchestra are terrific) and Edward Kleban's lyrics, this show will be a Lajoie-ous reunion. For those new to it, it will be an uplifting Lajoie-ous introduction. For all, it's a must see!
A CHORUS LINE runs through March 4th in the Gyder Stage at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts.
Photo credit to Carly Weekley