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Oct 08th
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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 Photo Credit: Jana Marcus

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

Comments (3)Add Comment
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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Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


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