Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
A Chorus Line
It's been almost 35 years since A Chorus Line made its spectacular New York debut, and the touring production now at Washington's National Theatre proves that the show still works. Interestingly, Michael Bennett's deconstruction of the lives of Broadway dancers now operates on two levels simultaneously: as a historic monument of its original era, 1975, and as a set of iconic characters brought to life by performers of a more recent generation.
On the surface, this productionbased on the 2006 Broadway revivalhas the hallmarks of the original. Bob Avian, Bennett's co-choreographer in 1975, directed this version, and original cast member Baayork Lee oversaw the choreography. Even Robin Wagner's minimalist scenery is the same. The difference is in the performances: the cast is uniformly sharp and focused, and some of them echo their predecessors, but others take their characterizations in surprising directions.
For example, openly gay characters were not very familiar to mainstream Broadway audiences in the 1970s. Today, Bobby (Ian Liberto) can portray himself without shame in the manner of a young Charles Nelson Reilly, and Greg (Alex Ringler) has an attitude that makes his personal revelation less than a shock. On the other hand, Paul (understudy Jordan Fife Hunt) has an angelic appearance and a quiet, gentle dignity that provides the necessary depth to his long monologue.
Mindy Dougherty is delightfully effervescent as Val, the sweet-faced blonde who owes her success to her surgical enhancements. Bethany Moore has a likable Carol Burnett quality as tall, thin, Midwestern Judy Turner (although the joke she makes about her name is different from the original, which referred to a bygone Hollywood star). Hollie Howard is self-possessed as low-key Maggie, who blossoms in "At the Ballet," while Clyde Alves gets to show off his acrobatic moves as Mike in "I Can Do That." However, Shannon Lewis' shrill performance as outwardly tough Sheila makes the character not just cynical as written, but irritating.
As Cassie, the one-time featured dancer trying to return to the chorus, Robyn Hurder is a fluid, sinuous dancer; "The Music and the Mirror" is still a striking solo, and much more affecting here than the personal interplay between her and director Zach (Sebastian La Cause). The emotional heart of this production is less in their connection than in the link forged between Zach and Paul.
The National Theatre