BWW Review: A CHORUS LINE at Music Theatre Wichita, A ten for dancing!
For their third show of the summer season, Music Theatre Wichita presents A Chorus Line-- Michael Bennett's beloved concept piece about auditioning for coveted spots in a Broadway production. The show itself debuted forty-four years ago this time in July and follows sixteen performers as they fight for a job in the chorus. Auditioning dancers lay out their entire lives on a single line through stories, mostly dramatic, to tell the ultimate truth of what it's like to simply tryout. A Chorus Line ranks top seven in longest running Broadway production in musical theatre history but is now showing until July 14th at Century II Concert Hall for a limited engagement.
Music Theatre Wichita's version follows the necessary tradition, choreography and actors' tracks of how A Chorus Line should and ought to be staged. If you know this production by heart, which most of us do, you will not be disappointed by the simple fact it is presented in its bare and true fashion; running time is two hours and fifteen minutes with no intermission. Take my advice: arrive with plenty of time to park, visit the restroom facilities in order to grab a snack and drink from concessions. You will certainly be doing yourself a favor as not to interrupt.
For starters, the opening number was wonderful, being staged with original choreography. Pay particular close attention to Will Jewett as dance assistant Larry while he aids the gentlemen and ladies during the dance call. He is most definitely 'nailing' the choreography as we say in show biz. "At the Ballet" is a glorious showtune which was well sung and delivered remarkably from vocalists Maura Gill (Sheila) and Abby Kress (Bebe). Following that ballad was "Sing!" which had nice, subtle references to first show of the season Sound of Music as well as strong vibrato from the ensemble for Christmas Carols. Crawford Horton (Richie) embodied his character quite well, although he may have had some opening night jitters while simultaneously tackling soaring and whaling high notes for "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love."
Showcasing her well-developed Broadway skills is triple threat Paige Faure as (Cassie) who gets the difficult task of dancing and singing "The Music and the Mirror." Full heartedly do I believe Faure to be a triple threat with amazing battements, hip isolations, and dazzling singing and acting that will leave you breathless. Not to mention the set of magnificent mirrors, under the care of scenic coordinator Jordan Slusher, which reflected gorgeous lighting by Don Fox as well as an ever present and hushed audience watching. Shortly after, she delivers captivating dialogue between other Broadway veteran David Elder as Zach, who listens and reacts to the scene just as well as Faure displaying his TV and film credit range. The song "What I Did for Love," is a true musical theatre ballad staged by director and choreographer Brian J. Marcum at the helm. Normally, the song is staged with different levels, with some performers sitting whom eventually stand, but Marcum took a more profound professional approach by having the performers powerfully stand throughout. Then of course, concluding the show is "One," an iconic refrain heard repeatedly during the show and featured new costumes of gold by Deborah Roberts and team.
In my books, the true performer of the night goes to Larkin Reilly as Val. Her rendition of
"Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" will have you roaring in your seats through blatantly obvious anatomical suggestions to the female anatomy; her catty remarks are dead on too.
As previously mentioned, all performers gave standard requirements deemed necessary for the roles. No qualms there. My only reservation to the entire production was age appropriateness to casting. For instance, it was hard to believe that some had the fiery grit, blood, sweat, and tear shed needed for determination for landing a chorus job when some of the company members needed the wisdom and experience which comes only with years of rejection. For instance, casting calls for Sheila Bryant to be an aging dancer, while actress Maura Gill looked and behaved incredibly young, only being a collegiate senior at Texas State. It's not the fault of Gill, it just might not have been the best fit for this talented actress. Sound, too, unfortunately was another issue, only because the engineer had the challenge of finding balance between a combating chorus and moments of solo.
A Chorus Line runs from now until Sunday, July 14th. This show is definitely a ten for dancing!
What: A Chorus Line by Music Theatre Wichita
Where: Century II Concert Hall
When: July 10-14
Friday at 8:00 PM
Saturday at 2:00 PM and 8:00 pm
Sunday at 2:00 PM and 7:00 pm
During a Broadway audition, life stories are shared and secrets revealed by aspiring dancers Richie (Justin Showell), Al (Devon McCleskey), Kristine (Liza Piccoli), Val (Larkin Reilly), Mark (Ethan Zeph), Paul (Preston Perez) and Diana (Gabriella Enriquez). Directed and choreographed by Brian J. Marcum, "A Chorus Line" plays through Sunday July 14 at Century II.
PHOTO COURTESY OF: KACY MEINECKE