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Review: A Chorus Line Keeps Kickin'

After a 16 year nap, A Chorus Line jolts back to life with one word: "Again!" At the demand of a smooth baritone voice, the black stage is awash with light as two dozen dancers kick into gear! Again, the music.  Again, the dance.  Again, the success and the defeat.  Again, the line... and you know there couldn't have been a better time for this show to be revived.

It doesn't rely on spectacle or flashing scenery and it doesn't brim with symbolism.  Instead, part of why I found A Chorus Line to be such a hit during its exclusive pre-Broadway engagement in San Francisco is its startling reflection of reality – via mirror and metaphor.

Reminding the audience there is nothing deeper to this show than what is right in front of their eyes, the mirror reflects these dancers (who start as nobodys) as somebodys.  Somebodys who must not only face a grueling audition, but questions of love, family, childhood, sexuality, purpose…and plastic surgery!

The surprise comes from the juxtaposing roles one takes as a spectator.  When the human barcode first assembles on the white line, we know nothing about these characters and yet judge them, almost satisfied when the poor dancers are sent home.  Yet, in the blink of an eye, we soon find ourselves connecting with the remaining 17 and genuinely fear their dismissal.  Each dancer has a unique moment in the spotlight, but there are some notable performances.

Firstly, Charlotte d'Amboise excels as leading-lady-turned-chorus-girl, Cassie.  During her astounding solo, "The Music and the Mirror," the moment is so raw and supreme she becomes ensnared in a vortex of confidence and desperation.  She rampages, snarling, spinning, completely letting loose in an explosion matched only by the roar of applause with the final trumpet blast! d'Amboise is finally earning her place as a star, dues she paid years ago.

Cowering near the end of the line, with his head down and hands in his pockets, was the strongest actor of the evening, Jason Tam.  Personifying Paul, a scared gay boy who only wants to dance, Tam gives a flawless performance of a beautifully flawed soul.

Coaxing truths from Paul and the other hoofers is Zach, performed superbly by Michael Berresse.  As the man pulling the strings of this audition, Berresse spends most of his time sitting on a stool in the back of the theatre.  Yet his powerful and sexy voice fills the house, keeping the pulse, turning the page.  Each of Berresse's movements is fluid but certain.

While Berresse and d'Amboise were excellent soloists or as part of the line, together their chemistry seemed a bit contrived.Their relationship (as Zach and Cassie) may need to be less sterile.  Yet, pawing through TV-novella lines like "Why did you leave me?" the belly of the beast is finally exposed – harsh and shockingly – when Zach shouts: "Is this really what you want?"

Singing perhaps the most popular songs, "Nothing" and "What I Did For Love," Natalie Cortez as Morales, is a doll and an easy favorite.  Jessica Lee Goldwyn (Val) surprised me more by her maternal tendencies with rookie Mark, played by Paul McGill, but still earned the laughs in "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three."  Additionally, Chryssie Whitehead makes an adorable tone-deaf Kristine.

Sheila, who thinks she's up a peg but needs to be knocked down one, is wonderfully commanded by Deidre Goodwin.  Her mouth forms expertly around the lyrics of "At the Ballet," where we learn her character's strong personality is shaped by a difficult childhood.  Mara Davi (Maggie) and Alisan Porter (Bebe) also sound breath-taking together in that number.

Baayork Lee's restaged choreography is familiar to those who saw the original production and to a newer generation, as it lends itself to some contemporary cheer routines.  Not as flourishing in fancy footwork of other shows today, it earns its ranks instead as a 90-minute endurance test!

There are chills on both sides of the orchestra pit.  "It really hit me tonight," said Heather Parcells (Judy) after the show, "We were doing the wedge and I thought to myself I'm in 'A Chorus Line!' I almost lost it right there!"

With the surge of kick after kick after kick kick kick… With the stage ablaze in shimmering gold sequin and twinkling smiles and eyes… There is only one singular thought: This is Broadway.



A Chorus Line continues its pre-Broadway engagement at San Francisco's Curran Theatre through September 2, then transfers to New York's Schoenfeld Theatre September 18.  For more information and to buy tickets visit www.achorusline.com.

Starring: Ken Alan (Bobby), Brad Anderson (Don), Michael Berresse (Zach), Natalie Cortez (Diana), Charlotte d'Amboise (Cassie), Mara Davi (Maggie), Jessica Lee Goldyn (Val), Deidre Goodwin (Sheila), Tyler Hanes (Larry), James T. Lane (Richie), Paul McGill (Mark), Heathe Parcells (Judy), Michael Paternostro (Greg), Alisan Porter (Bebe), Jeffrey Schecter (Mike), Yuka Takara (Connie), Jason Tam (Paul), Chryssie Whitehead (Kristine), and Tony Yazbeck (Al), with Michelle Aravena, David Baum, Mike Cannon, E. Clayton Cornelious, Joey Dudding, Lyndy Franklin, Nadine Isenegger, Pamela Jordan, Lorin Latarro, and Grant Turner.

Conceived and originally directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, this production of A Chorus Line is under the direction of Bob Avian with choreography restaging by Baayork Lee; featuring a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and lyrics by Edward Kleban. 




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From This Author Eugene Lovendusky

Eugene Lovendusky graduated summa cum laude from SFSU with a BA in Writing for Electronic Media and a minor in Drama. Raised in the SF (read more...)

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