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BWW Review: A CHORUS LINE is 'One Singular Sensation' Under Director Donna Feore

5 out of 5 stars

This week A Chorus Line at the Stratford Festival confirmed what I've already long suspected: Donna Feore is one of the greatest directors of musicals of our time. Year after year she has managed to put out a top notch main stage musical for the festival as good as anything you'll see on Broadway, Toronto, or the West End.

The show is absolutely worth the trip.

A Chorus Line is the story of veteran Broadway gypsies (with a little fresh meat thrown in for good measure) and is based on a set of recorded interviews with performers conducted by Michael Bennett and dramatized by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante.

Feore has given new life to A Chorus Line - a show not designed to be performed in a space such as the Festival Theatre. The theatre with seating on three sides is really the antithesis to straight lines.

Feore has re-choreographed the show for the first time professionally since it premiered off-Broadway directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett (co-choreographed by Bob Avian).

She's split up the chorus line into rows and spread them all over the stage - and it feels much more like an actual audition environment than a staged production. I was immersed in the world of struggling dancers from the very first moment until the last downbeat of "One Singular Sensation."

Feore has also assembled a top notch cast of triple threats. I was emotionally invested in the story of every character on that stage.

Cynthia Smithers shines as Diana Morales, a girl who feels "nothing" in her acting class. She delivers one of the standout performances. Julia McLellan delivers the crowd pleasing "Dance Ten, Looks Three" with great energy and perfect comedic timing.

Conor Scully has the most moving and poignant moment in the show and is perfectly cast as Paul who relives via a monologue traumatic moments from his childhood, including a molestation he didn't tell anyone about.

Late in the second act, Paul falls and triggers a recurring problem with his knee - leading Zach (the expertly cast Juan Chioran) to prompt the dancers to tell him what they would do if they could never dance again. This leads into the show's most famous number - "What I Did For Love."

The only moment which left me wanting more was the pivotal number "The Music and The Mirror." Dayna Tietzen is a brilliant actress and singer, but her performance in this particular number was lacking the passion and fire that it needs to have the intended effect.

Michael Gianfrancesco's set is just perfect - rotating panels either become a brick wall or a wall of mirrors. Special mention must be made of the orchestra. The Stratford Festival always has a full orchestra for each of their productions and in the age of music "enhancement" it makes all the difference. They do, however, reside above the stage in an loft so mention must also be made of sound designer Peter McBoyle who's work ensures we can hear them.

Marvin Hamlisch's score (with lyrics by Edward Kleban) is brilliant - and it is brilliantly performed by cast and musicians alike.

You'll regret missing this A Chorus Line. The dancing, the music, and the story will move you and make for an excellent time at the theatre. I know I'll be back.

Now through October 30th. For More information, visit stratfordfestival.ca.

Photo: Members of the company in A Chorus Line. Photography by David Hou.


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