Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol
A Chorus Line
A Chorus Line, which opened on Broadway during the mid-1970s, finds audition candidates desperate to get in a show which Zach (Noah Racey) casts. Five young wannabe dancers are eliminated quickly and it is then explained that only four men and four women will eventually survive cuts. More than two hours later (without intermission), a rich and eager evening of theater concludes.
Each actor is asked to tell something of his/her life, aspirations, background ... Mike (Matthew Bauman) literally flips the evening into high gear with gymnastic ease as the pliable performer begins the proceedings with "I Can Do That." Sheila (Dana Winkle) is knowing and a bit smug. Val (Ashley Arcement) gives "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" its due. Cassie (Nili Bassman) was personally involved with Zach way back when. Now, hurting for employment, she is back and ardently hopes she can land a place on the line. The interaction between Cassie and Zach and his insistence that she does not belong and should not be attempting to land a role becomes pivotal. Later, Paul (Eddie Gutierrez) suffers a severe knee injury. His fear is that he no longer will have a shot at dancingnot the physical hurt to be endured. Just before the final curtain, Diana (Natalie Caruncho), backed by company singers, delivers the musical's lovely and famous tune, "What I Did for Love."
A Chorus Line boasts music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban. The book for the show was written by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Michael Bennett conceived, directed and choreographed the Broadway original. In addition to Hill, the BTG group maximizes the talents of choreographer Gerry McIntyre and music director Steven Freeman. The play is, at once, poignant, dramatic, and filled with some blazing dance numbers. The current version features 13 musicians in the orchestra pit. It all adds up to stirring and enthusiastic musical theater.
Hill has assembled a cast of Broadway and first tour musical actors, and mixes in other talented young people. For example, Margaret Wild plays Kristine (who has trouble singing) and is married to Bronx native Al (Tim McGarrigal). Last summer, Wild, then an acting apprentice, was a chorus participant in the BTG production of The Who's Tommy and also played Susan Mahoney in Finian's Rainbow at the Unicorn Theatre. Now, she is a mainstay and sometimes front and center in A Chorus Line. Hill, ranging back to days as artistic director at Springfield's then fine regional theater StageWest, and through his professorships at University of Connecticut and now at Brandeis University, locates and subsequently casts many a talented actor.
A musical which won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize and nine Tony Awards, A Chorus Line still rings true and it remains all about dance. McIntyre does a nifty job of integrating new movement with Bennett's steps and intent. It becomes difficult to ascertain what was once there and what has been added. Hill makes the most of each actor's moments by giving performers precious time to tell stories. When we reach the finale, everyone has traded in rehearsal garb for glittering silver (spiced with gold) form- fitting attire. Costumer David Murin highlights each individual with his wardrobe choices. As the group sings "One," each primary cast member receives due applause. Hill and McIntyre (who have obviously disciplined the cast through rehearsal) provide them with opportunities and moments to shine. This results in vivacious musical theater which is positively contagious.
A Chorus Line continues at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts as part of Berkshire Theatre Group's summer season through July 21st. For tickets, visit www.berkshiretheatregroup.org or call (413) 997-4444.
- Fred Sokol