Review: Even a jagged 'Chorus Line' delivers Broadway dreams at the Phil

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  • More theater news at naplesnews.com/stage
  • Get complete information, show dates and links to ticket websites at achorusline.com
The cast of 'A Chorus Line,' dressed in the sparkling golden costumes for the show's finale, 'One: Reprise.'

PHIL MARTIN

The cast of "A Chorus Line," dressed in the sparkling golden costumes for the show's finale, "One: Reprise."

■ "A Chorus Line" performs tomorrow at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

■ The show returns to Florida with a Feb. 25 date at the Van Wezel in Sarasota and a two day run (Feb. 26-27) at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

■ "A Chorus Line" returns again in March, with dates in Lakeland (March 12), Jacksonville (March 13), Key West (March 16), Miami (March 17) and Fort Pierce (March 19).

■ The show will also play cities up throughout the eastern United States through March 23.

■ Get complete information, show dates and links to ticket websites at achorusline.com

■ More theater news at The Stage Door blog

— Since its inception in 1975, "A Chorus Line" has stood as one of Broadway's most spectacular, beautiful and heartfelt productions. The show about dancers fighting for spots in a Broadway chorus can survive any pounding, any iffy casting, any mishap. And it did Sunday at the Naples Philharmonic.

Sunday's production was a one-day, two-show, non-Equity tour produced by American Theatre International. A previous tour played the Phil in January 2010.

The current production has been reviewed at least once before, by the El Paso Times; the job was assigned to their music critic.

The beauty of "A Chorus Line" lies in the strength and power of the story. While the plot follows seventeen desperate dancers, the indelible passion that leaks through details the connection between lost souls who found themselves inside the theater. Anyone who has ever been an outcast, felt lost, alone or friendless - then discovered a passion that makes them whole can identify with the soaring hope that pours through "A Chorus Line." From lowest lows to highest highs, the show celebrates those who dared to dream, to fight and ultimately - to fly.

"A Chorus Line" was originally conceived, choreographed and directed by Michael Bennett. The direction and choreography for this tour was re-staged by longtime Bennett collaborator Baayork Lee, who created the role of tiny Asian-American dynamo "Connie" in the original 1975 production. The "four foot ten" solo was based on her short stature and bubbly personality.

One of the best parts of "A Chorus Line" remains the classic, sweeping, ballet-inspired choreography backed by the music of Marvin Hamslich. The dance sequences alone can sweep you away. Pick a number - any number - and it resounds with hope and emotion. Opener "I Hope I Get It" contains every ounce of waiting, wanting anyone who's ever stood in line desperate to be picked for a team, a job, even a promotion. Wistful "At the Ballet" captures not just the beauty of graceful girls but the ability of teens to escape a troubled home life, even for a few hours.

Sadly, the cracks in the show become all too apparent at times. The off-the-bus, on-the-stage, back-on-the-bus tour fails to live up to the promise of what "A Chorus Line" could - and should - be. No major missteps, to be sure, but enough minor errors that make it obvious the was designed to rake in cash from audiences desperate to see one of Broadway's treasures.

Much of the casting, especially in the featured roles, feels slightly off. Caley Crawford never brings any warmth to ex-star Cassie, the role that launched Donna McKechnie's career and won her a Tony Award. The portrayal feels cold and petulant. Crawford's signature "The Music and the Mirror" dance sequence also lands with a thud; the sequence displays basic moves and carries none of the passion Cassie should have.

Lauren Nicole Alaimo has plenty of fire as the Puerto Rican Diana Morales, who fights through a terrible experience at the High School of the Performing Arts. Yet, her voice can't carry the emotional heft of plaintive song "Nothing." In other spots, especially "At the Ballet," voices seem pitchy and out of tune. There were also repeated problems with the wireless microphones at the 3 p.m. performance; actors cut out entirely during spoken segments or the audience here static.

"A Chorus Line" takes place on a bare stage in a Broadway theatre. The cast often performs in near darkness with a mirror behind them and spotlights to single them out. The effect allows the audience to identify with the individual dancers, to understand their stories and consider how each are different - yet the same.

Sunday afternoon's spotlight operator was, in a word, dreadful. The beams wobbled as if the light were on a raft cast adrift at sea, unable to find performers and sometimes even the stage. Faces moved in and out of shadow, figures drifted as if in moonlight; this was "A Chorus Line: The Twilight Edition."

Through it all, the sturdy show provides many of the lovely, graceful and touching moments that have made it a favorite. Brooke Morrison elevates sexy, street-smart, worldwide dancer Sheila beyond the character's va-va-voom attitude. Morrison allows something of a heart to show beneath the leotard and tight dancer's bun; there's a worry about what comes next. What happens when those hips won't kick, the knees won't bend and the boobs start to sag? Hers is an electric, look-at-me performance - not just for the character, but for the depth the actress brings.

Likewise, Eddie Gutierrez stills the theater with his moving, evocative monologue that describes the troubled Paul's childhood. The moment, one of the most serious in the show, offers a glimpse into how artists escaped into their passion even when their families, society and the world at large disapproved.

Look also for Michael Peter Deeb as Mike, who gets the fun "I Can Do That" number and the lively, energetic Sharrod Williams as basketball player Richie. Jeremiah Ginn brings unexpected depth to harsh, unlikeable choreographer Zach. I've seen the show several times; his was the first portrayal to humanize the character and allow audiences inside Zach's driven, workaholic shell.

Full Disclosure: Naples Daily News publisher Dave Neill is a member of the board of directors of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts.

What's your favorite number from "A Chorus Line?" Email me, csilk@naplesnews.com. Email me, csilk@naplesnews.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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