Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
A Chorus Line
In the almost 40(!) years since its premiere in 1975, A Chorus Line has gone from Broadway breakthrough to beloved classic. The current production at Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington closely follows Michael Bennett's original staging and choreography, re-created by Stephen Nachamie, and the solid cast features numerous alumni of Broadway, regional and touring companies of the musical.
A Chorus Line was a phenomenon in its time, running for a then-record 15 years, earning nine Tony Awards in 1976 and becoming the fifth musical to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (only three others have received the prize since then). Its beginnings came from an informal late-night gathering of Broadway dancers at a time when few jobs were available. Bennett recorded the event and others that followed, eventually bringing in composer Marvin Hamlisch, lyricist Edward Kleban, and book writers James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante (one of the dancers) to craft the stories into a performance rather than disparate pieces.
The musical is still innovative in the way it melds song, dance and dialogue into a single piece of art: "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love" envelops the audience as it incorporates full songs, brief melodies, and single spoken lines with almost constant movement. Andrew F. Griffin's lighting design can be subtlepinpoint spots take the audience inside the heads of individual dancers as they reveal their private and public thoughts to each other and to Zach (Carl Randolph), the autocratic directorand as bright and flashy as the golden costumes the cast wears in the finale. The eight-piece orchestra, conducted by Ross Scott Rawlings, ably keeps up the tempo.
The look of the Olney production hews closely to the original and revival productions on Broadway. People who remember the iconic photo of the Broadway cast on the line will recognize characters from Brad Musgrove's costumes: to mention three standouts, tough-talking Latina Diana (Jessica Vaccaro) wears the familiar color-blocked leotard and shirt; self-dramatizing Bobby (Parker Drown) still has a red scarf tied around his neck; and desperate Cassie (Michelle Aravena) still wears the red leotard and wrap skirt as she dominates the stage in her solo dance. Bryan Knowlton brings both dignity and humility to his performance as Paul, whose pained monologue is the heart of the script.
Olney Theatre Center