A Chorus Line January 30, 2011
A Chorus Line: New
Meaning After thirty-five years
By Glen Creason
The musical, a Chorus Line could hardly have more lofty credentials than its nine Tony’s, a Pulitzer and glorious run on Broadway that was longer than any American production. If you think for a minute about the competition those facts are absolutely staggering. The story of nineteen dancers auditioning for a part in a play is a musical within a musical that thrives in revivals and small productions precisely because it is all about the people that play these roles: actors and actresses who are anxious to prove themselves in front of the footlights. These are not all wide-eyed kids who want a taste but a mixture of veterans who cling to their fading dreams, damaged artists who find refuge in dance and innocents who see only the adventure of show business in front of them. New productions like the NETworks version done at the
A Chorus Line is blessed by several memorable, “whistle it to your car after the show” songs that anchor the short but emotion packed two hours of the performance. “One” is an anthem in the American Musical songbook and “What I Did for Love” is an evergreen that works as well today as it did back in 1975 when the show debuted in the Big Apple. It is amazing that a Chorus Line does succeed when you ponder what the world was like in 1975, before digital, before social media, before instant electronic access to everything and before it was ok to even mention your sexual orientation. The beauty of this touring edition of a “Chorus Line” is the reminder of its ground-breaking examination of artists “coming out” and the price they paid for living the lifestyle. In light of the excellent “it gets better” campaign of today to end bullying of gay kids, this show is way ahead of its time. Several of the most powerful moments in the show involve the struggle for these dancers to be themselves in the real world and express their feelings on stage.
The Cerritos Show had many fine qualities and tops among them were actors who made blood pump through the roles written for artists a generation ago. Ryan Steer as Zach, the director carried the afternoon with a commanding performance that allowed the audience to respect his dilemma of being the one to make choices while staying sensitive to the dancers. Ironically the character (Cassie) who is supposed to have been a failure as an actress is played by Rylun Juliano who turned in the finest acting job of this show during her powerhouse moments in “the Music and the Mirror.” Again, Gaspare Di Blasi, as Paul brought out the hankies in the audience in his self-effacing confessions of suffering because of his homosexuality. Gina Duci as Diana was a triple threat in acting her segment about “Nothing” and a beautiful lead on “What I Did for Love” along with strong dancing throughout. Also Suzanna Dupree was edgy but sympathetic as the veteran Sheila who has something to prove but is not easily lead.
There was lots more to like including Jessi Trauth as Val, the naughty but pragmatic dancer who is hearing the clock tick; Hardy Weaver as the odd but totally charming youngster and David Grindrod as Mark who brought some humor to the narrative. The dancing was superb and many who had fewer lines stood out in the choreography including excellent Netaniel Bellaishe as Larry, Mickey Junior-Ayer as Richie, Eric Mann as Mike, Justin Clynes as Greg, Julia Freyer as Judy and Erica Cenci as Bebe. The production seemed to be nicely funded as evidenced by the rather spectacular costuming of the finale which saw the ensemble on stage in glittering gold which was a nice send-off for a very good show.