A Chorus Line. Conceived and originally
Directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett
Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante
Music by Marvin Hamlisch; Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Directed by Donna Feore
Zach Juan Chioran
Mark Colton Curtis
Sheila Ayrin Mackie
Paul Conor Scully
Cassie Dayna Tietzen
Continues in repertory at the Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario
until October 30, 2016.
***** (out of five)
A Chorus Line celebrates and enlarges the legend of the dancers who make up the chorus in most musicals. In a nice twist of fate, the musical itself has become a legend as one of the longest running Broadway productions.
The dancers of the chorus are largely unknown. How many Broadway chorus dancers can one name? Unless they break through and become stars, they remain largely unknown in a tough career that last a few years.
Members of the company in A Chorus Line.
A Chorus Line pays tribute to all of them. The musical examines the lives, ambitions, limitations and heartbreaks of dancers as they audition for a Broadway show. It opens with a rousing dance number and the apt song, “I Hope I Get It.”
Zach (Juan Chioran), the no-nonsense director puts them through their paces and quickly cuts the number of hopefuls to seventeen. At this point he decides to find out more about the dancers and asks them to tell their story. The chorus becomes a number of individuals with different backgrounds albeit a single dream of getting a job as dancers. Of the seventeen, only four men and four women will be chosen in the end.
The creators of the musical have thus created a dance and song extravaganza based on an audition with stories that humanize and individualize the members of a group.
Donna Feore has choreographed and directed an extraordinary production for the Stratford Festival. The dancing from the halting start by some, to the disciplined, meticulous, athletic and graceful steps is simply splendid. We are treated to individual performances and ensemble routines that do credit to the title of the musical.
But there is also a plot that evolves as some of the dancers tell us their stories. The tall, leggy and arrogant Sheila (Ayrin Mackie) is every inch a dancer. Mark (Colton Curtis) tells the hilarious story of his first wet dream which he interprets as gonorrhea. He confesses his trauma to the parish priest with the vital information that he had never been with a woman.
Paul (Conor Scully) tells the moving story of finding out that he is gay and dancing in drag four performances a day. His parents eventually find out that he is gay and his father calls him “son” for the first time. Paul breaks down and Zach in a touching display of humanity gives him a comforting embrace.
The most complex story is that of Cassie (Dayna Tietzen). She had started in the chorus but was supposed to become a star. She shared an apartment with Zach but was not living with him because he was devoted to his career. She left him and went to California where things did not work out. She has been without work for two years and has taken the humiliating step of auditioning for the chorus. A moving scene.
We get a glorious performance which owes its success to the talented cast and musicians (conducted by Laura Burton) but most of the credit for a complex production must go to Donna Feore.