Reviewed by Judy Richter
It's a tribute to the genius of the late Michael Bennett and his artistic colleagues that "A Chorus Line" is still impressive and relevant 37 years after it opened on Broadway. The latest evidence of its power is the Broadway By the Bay production now playing at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City.
It's relevant because -- like the dancers auditioning for a Broadway show -- most people still have to put themselves on the line to get a job, especially one in a profession they're passionate about. It's impressive because the story, characters, staging, music, choreography and sets all make for a classic of the American musical theater.
The setting (from Cabrillo Stage) is simple -- a bare stage where more than 20 dancers, and then 17, are auditioning for eight chorus parts in the show. But for some of the featured numbers, the black back panels revolve to reveal full-length mirrors on the other side, allowing the auditioners to see themselves and the allowing the audience to experience a heightened effect from dancers dancing in unison.
The crux of the story by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, though, comes through the director, Zach (Tim Reynolds), who wants the auditioners to do more than sing and dance. He wants them to talk about themselves and how they came to be dancers. Thus the individual tales unfold, leading to such memorable songs as "At the Ballet," "One" and "What I Did for Love" -- all by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Edward Kleban.
Although the performers in BBB's non-Equity production seem to have been chosen more for their dancing than for their singing, a few stand out. Chief among them are Michelle Cabinian as Diana, who's featured in "Nothing" and "What I Did for Love"; and Mary Theresa Capriles as Cassie, who sings and dances in the show-stopping "The Music and Mirror." Brian Conway is touching as Paul, who got his start in show biz by performing in a drag show when he was 16. Mary Kalita's Val is spunky in "...And..." and "Dance: 10; Looks: Three," informally known as the T&A song.
Unlike the original production, which garnered multiple Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, this one has an intermission. Otherwise, the set, costumes (from The Theatre Company) and lighting by Michael Ramsaur are based on the original. The sound design by Delicate is inconsistent, with some performers more audible and comprehensible than others. (Diction is part of this problem.)
Bennett conceived and originally choreographed and directed "A Chorus Line." BBB's Robyn Tribuzi recreates his choreography, with some additional choreography by Alex Acevedo, who also plays Mike, for "I Can Do That." Likewise Jeffrey Bracco's direction is inspired by the original. Musical director Sean Kana directs the excellent orchestra.
BBB has made the Fox Theatre its home while its former venue, the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, is being renovated. The Fox is a vintage 1929 movie house right in the middle of downtown Redwood City. It had fallen on hard times in the past, but the new owners, Eric and Lori Lochtefeld, and BBB are making some welcome improvements, such as brand new seats in the lower balcony. More new seats are in the offing.
In the meantime, the BBB production of "A Chorus Line" is most enjoyable.Return to Home Page