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Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Landmark Musicals Wishes Happy 40th to A Chorus Line
Landmark Musicals
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther

Also see Rob's review of Memoir


The Cast
Photo by Max Woltman
When A Chorus Line opened in New York in 1975, it was a smash hit. It tells the tale of dancers auditioning for the chorus line in a musical and, as Clive Barnes said way back then, "It is a show that must dance, jog and whirl its way into the history of the musical theater." Well, it has.

If you were there in the '70s, you'll recognize the hairdos and dance costumes (leg warmers, unitard, headband). If you weren't, don't sweat the cultural references. Even I in my dotage had to search for "Jill St. John."

It is thrilling to see a production of professional caliber by a local company. Myra Cochnar and her able crew have put together a multi-talented cast and a performance you can't miss. Roses and bravos to all, particularly director Zane Barker and choreographers Louis Giannini and Courtney Giannini for their meticulous homage to the template, spiked with original flare.

Zach (Dean Eldon Squibb), who is a director, and his assistant Larry (Louis Giannini) must whittle 25 dancers down to eight who will get the job. After the first round of eliminations, 17 remain. They don't just dance and sing for their "supper"—the director wants personal stories. Gathering at the edge of the stage in a line-up that charmingly emulates the original Broadway cast, the "kids" literally are put on the spot

Mike (Kevin Gallacher) sings about how his sister's dance lessons became his inspiration in "I Can Do That." Gallacher is the consummate song-and-dance man, and his punctuating move is miraculous. Kristine and Al (Jessica Philbrook and James Ackerman), a cute married couple, sing about how Kristine can't sing.

In the song "Dance 10, Looks 3", Val (Brynlyn Loomis) explains how plastic surgery boosted her career. Sheila, Bebe and Maggie (Latasha Whitmore, Andrea Rascon-Thorpe and Julia Parma) recall how they were inspired to dance "At the Ballet." As each tells his or her intimate tale, we get to know them and begin to root for our favorites.

For Zach, one performer stands out from the crowd—Cassie (Wendy Leverenz Barker), his former lover who left the chorus years ago for featured parts. Their story does not focus on past love but on the heartbreak that show business can engender. When Leverenz Barker sings and dances "The Music and the Mirror," Cassie's motivations for rejoining the chorus line are revealed.

The ensemble exudes a genuine camaraderie and caring for each other, but a least a few must be jealous of Diana (Rebecca Turiciano), who gets to sing both "Nothing" and the recognizable "What I Did for Love." Turiciano does justice to each song with her outstanding vocals and engaging characterization. She is also able to overcome the deficiencies of the sound system and being sometimes upstaged by the orchestra.

From the chorus, each individual shines. To me, that is the story of this cast. Read their bios and you will find extraordinary stories of education, training, experience, and dedication. We've been privileged to see these performers in other local productions and we cheer for them all the way. As Zach does, we think of them as our "kids," too. Nice job, everyone.

Much is being made of the fact that, running at two hours, the Landmark Musicals version has no intermission. That is the way the show is written. This audition is grueling, physically and emotionally, and the audience must feel that intensity along with the dancers. So hit the head, pull up your big-person pants and get into it.

Now through December 6, 2015, at the Rodey Theatre at UNM, Fri.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.; Special matinee on Sat., December 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets: $18-24, at (505) 925-5858 and landmarkmusicals.org


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