Friday, November 12, 2010

REVIEW: A Chorus Line - Dance: 10, Song: 3

The year is 1975, and 17 dancers are competing for spots in a fictional Broadway show. Attending A Chorus Line involves watching the somewhat sadistic director, Zach, ask probing questions of these potential cast members' pasts in an effort to learn what drives them to want to dance on Broadway. Michael Bennet (whose authorship of the musical is somewhat controversial) taped a series of workshops and interviews with New York dancers to form what would eventually become the script for the Broadway show. Director and choreographer Baaylork Lee, a dancer whose story would become the basis for the character Connie, was quoted in the Post Crescent: "Michael Bennett had all these Broadway dancers talk about themselves and out of these taped sessions came the script for the play. I was playing myself on stage and so were half the other actors. This is the third generation sharing our stories and still being inspired by our experiences."

This intimate look into the pasts of these dancers is why Lee calls this musical "America's first reality show."

The first thing that needs to be understood about A Chorus Line is that it is a dancer's show. Visually, this show was a joy to watch. Every character moved with grace, power, and beauty. I imagine a major challenge that individual members of the cast faced was meeting the need to actually dance poorly or incorrectly when the script called for it. The chaotic and energetic opening of "I Hope I Get It" looked fantastic, and really showed off the abilities of the company. The upstage mirror that periodically appeared only augmented the beauty and strength of this athletic and talented group. Although my experience with dance is incredibly limited, Netanel Bellaishe, who played Larry, stood out to me as one of the best dancers I have ever seen.

While the dance and choreography was great, at times the singing was quite weak. Ensemble numbers were not as well supported as one would expect from a national touring company, and a few of the solo performances were not up to par. This was not helped by the fact that sound levels were sometimes balanced poorly. The pit was often set much too high, and frequently drowned out solo performances. There were some notable exceptions to this, however. Rylyn Juliano, who played Cassie, was more than able to pull off the daunting "Music and the Mirror" number quite well. Also, Karley Willocks, who played the smaller role of Maggie, stood out to me as one of the most talented and beautiful members of the cast. She is clearly an example of the term "triple threat," and I predict that this will not be the last time I hear her name. I enjoyed the plucky and energetic Gina Duci's performance of "Nothing," although I was not blown away by "What I Did for Love" near the end. Kristine and Al were very cute together, and Bobby's character was convincing.

Although I was not blown away by this performance, I certainly did enjoy it, and believe it is worth seeing. There are some really great moments, and this is early in the tour. I believe the quality will only improve as the run continues. I recommend attending this show to watch some incredible dancers perform their craft.

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