A Chorus Line
There comes a point when a theatre critic decides that he or she has seen even the most beloved of shows too many times. That point may have come for this scribe with A Chorus Line, the Tony Award Best Musical of 1976 (it beat out Fosse's original and dazzling version of Chicago, and the haunting and complex Pacific Overtures). By my count, I have seen the show done six times professionally and six times semi-professionally, and it has always had its moments. Happily, the 5th Avenue Theatre's rendition has many fine moments, making it probably the second or third best version of the show I've seen, out of all those incarnations.
Michael Bennett's concept of taking recorded interviews with dancers and framing them in the context of an audition for a big Broadway show has been imitated but never surpassed. If the Nicholas Dante and James Kirkwood script seems more pat and soap operatic after twenty eight years, it still moves and amuses an audience pretty darned well. Seattle based director/choreographer Stephen Terrell was a Bennett dancer in A Chorus Line himself and is ably abetted here by assistant choreographer Tim Johnson (also onstage as Larry) in capturing the essence of Bennett's style and steps, without slavishly imitating them.
Jane Lanier plays Cassie, the faltering almost star trying to go back into the line and is certainly the most amazing dancer in the company, zestfully performing the taxing "Music and the Mirror" and ably handling the character's dramatic exchanges with demanding ex-lover/director Zach (Doug Tompos in a rather mild interpretation of the character). Tracy Powell hits the mark as sarcastic veteran hoofer Sheila, never overplaying the ice queen aspect of the role. In "At the Ballet," which I have always found the most haunting number in Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban's score, Kathryn Arnett's Maggie is endearing and vocally amazing. Arnett delivers her money note at the song's climax with the kind of electricity that won deservedly sustained applause from the opening night audience.
Daniel Cruz Jr. brings honest pathos and poignancy to his big monologue as the shy Hispanic, ex-drag performer Paul, while Taryn Darr fills out the vocal and physical requirements for Val and hits the target on the sure-fire comedy classic "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three," though it's better known as "Tits and Ass."
Also notable, in a company largely made up of familiar Seattle theatre faces are the winsome and dynamic Seema Sueko as diminutive chorine Connie Wong, and Greg Allen & Bridgette Graf as husband and wife team Al & Christine. As the dancer who really couldn't "Sing," Graf finally gets a chance to step out of Seattle chorus lines herself, and Allen is drolly comic as her supportive spouse. The rest of the cast are, if not triple threats, certainly solid doubles, with one significant exception.
The character of Diana Morales has two of the show's best known songs, and unfortunately Maya R.S. Perkins' performance neither socks across the comedy of drama class angst in "Nothing" nor manages to inform "What I Did For Love" with the kind of heartfelt sincerity that it needs to conceal its pop song hit aspirations. That this actress seems so glaringly miscast and sub-par in the role only points up the strengths of the rest of the company.
Applause to W. Brent Sawyer and the orchestra for making the familiar score sound freshly minted (this show is often staged using a pre-recorded orchestra). As I'll be declining invitations to future productions of A Chorus Line for the foreseeable future, this production is a good one with which to "Kiss today goodbye, and point me t'ward tomorrow."
A Chorus Line runs through Feb. 16 at 5th Ave. Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle. Tickets are $15-$58. For more information see the theatre's web-site at www.5thavenuetheatre.org.