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They Walk The Line

ae2 cabrillostage2Cabrillo Stage delivers a vivid, heartfelt 'Chorus Line'

Talk about a singular sensation. When “A Chorus Line” debuted in 1975, it broke all the rules for what a Broadway musical is supposed to be. There are no elaborate sets or scene changes; it all takes place on a bare rehearsal stage with one mirrored wall. Playing out in more or less real time, with no intermission, the storyline—you couldn’t call it a plot, exactly—concerns a score of young dancers auditioning for the chorus of a Broadway show. Costumes? The kind of practice clothes every dancer has in his or her wardrobe. It also presents various gay and ethnically diverse characters in frankly sympathetic terms.

But everything that was supposed to be wrong with the show was evidently right on—it won nine Tonys, numerous Drama Desk and Obie Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. It also ran on Broadway for 19 years.

Cabrillo Stage veteran Janie Scott was a young dancer in 1977 when she won a place in one of the first touring companies of “A Chorus Line,” cast by the show’s original director and choreographer, Michael Bennett. And now she recaptures the stripped-down, no-frills, emotionally exposed vibe of the original show as director-choreographer of her own vivid production of “A Chorus Line,” the flagship event in the 2012 Cabrillo Stage summer season.

Scott sets the story in its original time frame, 1975, so she doesn’t have to edit out references in the James Kirkwood/Nicholas Dante book, “A Chorus Line,” to 20th century dance icons Ann Miller and Gwen Verdon, The Red Shoes, or The Ed Sullivan Show. (It’s doubtful if twentysomething line dancers today would know who these people and shows were.) Otherwise, these characters and their stories feel as universal as ever, and the Marvin Hamlisch/Edward Kleban songs just as fresh.

The show begins without prelude (or overture) in the middle of an audition. Veteran Broadway choreographer, Zach (a solid, empathetic Bill Olson), and his dance assistant, Larry (effervescent Joshua C. Lau), are putting a stage-full of hopeful dance “gypsies” through their paces. The entire company performs a rousing version of the opening number, “I Hope I Get It,” before a handful of also-rans are culled out, paring the audition down to 17 dancers, competing for eight spots in the chorus of a new show.ae2 cabrillostage1

To get to know them better, Zach (a disembodied voice from the control booth for much of the time) invites the dancers in the line to chat about themselves. What follows is a series of personality-revealing solos, trios, routines and vignettes, all performed with vigor and heart by Scott’s hard-working cast. Standouts include Zoe Schneider-Smith as feisty Diana Morales; a terrific singer, she nails the song “Nothing,” and leads the company in the power anthem, “What I Did For Love.”

Adam J. Saucedo and Crystina Robinette are funny as married dancers, with Al trying to coach his tone-deaf wife, Kristine, through the comic number, “Sing.” Adam Theodore Barry sets a high standard early on as Mike, in his fresh, knockabout number, “I Can Do That.” Lizzie O’Hara is raucous fun as Val, singing about her extensive plastic surgery, Hugh Haiker scores laughs as droll, arch Bobby (“To commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant,” he observes), trading bons mots with Lauren Bjorgan’s caustic Sheila.

Noelani Neal radiates poise and presence in the centerpiece role of Cassie, a veteran dancer who used to “stop the show cold,” but whose star fizzled after a misguided sojourn in Hollywood. (She’s a fine dancer, but her big solo number, “The Music and the Mirror” needs a little punching up to be the show-stopper we expect.) Brian Conway is excellent as Paul, the emotional heart of the play, a young Puerto Rican whose story of coming of age and coming out to his parents is delivered in a heartfelt monologue, unaided by song or dance.

Skip Epperson’s no-set set and Kyle Grant’s lighting design score in their unobtrusive functionality. Ditto Maria Crush’s canny costumes, which seem to have been grabbed right out of the rehearsal trunk, while her gold-spangled suits and top hats for the finale, “One,” are appropriately dazzling. And a chorus of unseen pit singers provides an extra layer of vocal lushness to match the physical energy onstage in Scott’s entertaining production.


“A Chorus Line” runs July 13-Aug. 12 at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. For tickets call 479-6154, or visit cabrillostage.com. Photo Credit: Jana Marcus

See GTv video where Greg and Kim audition for a A Chorus Line >

Comments (3)Add Comment
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written by Alan, July 25, 2012
You're right, my mistake.
...
written by Lisa Jensen, July 20, 2012
Actually, I did mention Lizzie O'Hara as Valerie. I thought she was great.
...
written by Alan Spencer, July 17, 2012
Having now seen this version of A Chorus Line twice I can say I found it more entertaining than the touring Broadway version I saw years ago. One of the outstanding performances among several not mentioned was by Lizzie playing Valerie who nailed her version of "Tits and Ass" . As for Noelani Neal as Cassie, I personally found her performance mesmerizing and am looking forward to seeing the show again just so I can be wowed again by this young up and comer.

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Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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