Review by Danny Gaisin
Talk about magic, or ask about how a trick is accomplished, the response is always “it’s done with smoke and mirrors”. Donna Feore’s directorial take on A CHORUS LINE is creative and immaculate. Originally staged by Michael Bennett with music of Hamlisch & lyrics by Ed Kleban first opened on Broadway just over forty years ago and immediately became a standard. Utilizing the vehicle of a ‘cattle call’ –or audition, seventeen young dancers are trying out for eight spots. The choreographer wants to know the ‘why’s’ as well as the “can’s” of their individual talents.
This is the brand of theatre that’s just made for a director/choreographer like Feore. An experienced dancer herself and undoubtedly having endured tryouts, there has to be an ingrained empathy for what her cast members must go through. Thus, she’s able to draw out and project all the insecurity; self-doubt; optimism and disappointment that’s intrinsic to the genre. The play; some references; and imagery may be dated, but the psyches of every one of Chorus Line’s protagonists are stereotypical and as true & real as today. Through monologues; dances; histories; even pantomimes; the audience meets a cross-section of young and nervous – hopefully sanguine terpsichorean talent.
There are the familiar and iconic numbers such as ‘One’ (singular sensation); and ‘At the Ballet’ with its minor key drop line. Then, the closing tear-jerker theme of ‘♫What I did for love♪’ that underlines the theme of let-down and hopefulness. Kiss today goodbye…then …point me towards tomorrow is a philosophy that is not restricted to just theatre. All of life is composed of hurdles and drawbacks.
The cast is amazingly multi-talented in their ability to dance; sing and act with no weak links noticeable. But just like in human existence, there are some standouts. ‘Judy’ is portrayed by Bonnie Jordan whose profile is eerily reminiscent of a young Michele Lee of “How to Succeed in Business” fame. We’re cheering for her from the get-go. Julia McLellen who belts out about her T & A enhancements and what it does for her career are a highlight. The situation that Conor Scully’s character has endured pulls our heartstrings with empathy. Sheila is Ayrin Mackie and she’s the ballsy one with the necessary ‘brass ones’. The plot rather focuses on Cassie played by Dayna Tietzen and her situation evokes Marsha Mason’s role in ‘The Goodbye Girl’. They even seem to have the same couturier. Her character hints at a previous relationship with the producer, intensely portrayed by Juan Chioran. When they finally face each other it’s a catharsis.
The lighting and especially the mirrored background allow the audience to feel as though we are flies on the wall. We’re observers to which the performers are oblivious. Interesting concept and it works!
F.Y.I. some necessary theatre terms: – UP is the rear of the stage; DOWN is the front. STAGE LEFT is the right side of what we’re facing; and curiously enough; STAGE RIGHT is to our left! Now you’re in-the-know.
A CHORUS LINE is at the Festival Theatre until October 22nd . It’s a 2-hour run sans intermission.