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A Chorus Line Returns to Broadway!

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 1, 2007
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 239-6200
About the Author:


A Chorus Line
(A Chorus Line Website)

Conceived and Originally Choreographed by
Michael Bennett
Book by James Kirkwood & Nicholas Dante
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Originally Choreographed by Bob Avian

With:
Ken Alan, Grant Turner, Michelle Aravena, David Baum,
Michael Berresse, Mike Cannon, E. Clayton Cornelious, Natalie Cortez, Charlotte D'Amboise, Mara Davi, Jessica Lee Goldyn, Deidre Goodwin, Tyler Haynes, Nadine Isenegger, Pamela Jordan, Paul McGill,
Heather Parcells, Michael Paternostro, Alisan Porter, Jeffrey Schecter, Lisa Ho, Jason Tam, Chryssie Whitehead,
Tony Yazbeck, (plus 2 swings)

At
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
NY, NY
212.239.6200

Directed by Bob Avian
Producer: Vienna Waits Productions
Scenic Design: Robin Wagner
Costume Design: Theoni V. Aldredge
Lighting Design: Tharon Musser
Lighting Adapted by Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Acme Sound Partners
Music Direction & Supervision by Patrick Vaccariello
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, Bill Byers, & Hershy Kay
Vocal Arrangements by Don Pippin
Choreography Re-Staged by Baayork Lee
Dance Captain: Michael Gorman
Conductor: Patrick Vaccariello
Press: Barlow*Hartman


Robert Abrams' review of A Chorus Line
It seemed like an advanced modern jazz class, large dance studio, mirrors, a teacher shouting, "From the top, 5, 6, 7, 8…", but this was something big. This was Broadway, and it soon became clear that these dancers were in sync, professional and auditioning for a show. They were great dancers, had spunk, were of a variety of size, ethnicity, sophistication, confidence, and body language; that is, when they were not dancing. When they danced in unison, they reminded me of The Rockettes at Radio City, a line dance of precision, perfection, and pizzazz. But, verve soon turned to vulnerability, and it was clear that only eight dancers would be chosen of about seventeen.

What was also clear was my memory of the original show, and my yearning for more of the main theme song and "dressed-up dancing". I remember being disappointed that there were not at least fifteen minutes of One, Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban's explosive theme song that signifies this show in all its incarnations. However, there are other memorable songs, sung in the 70's audition clothes (that re-create the 1975 costumes of the original show that ran straight through 1990). In fact, there were even two actors in the current show that this page has reviewed in recent years (Charlotte D'Amboise and Diedre Goodwin in Chicago and Ms. D'Amboise in Contact), so memories abounded.

Michael Berresse, as Zach, the director who chooses (with Larry, his assistant) the eight actor/dancer/singers, was the booming voice from the rear or the stern voice up front, who pried the secrets and souls of these seventeen "tryouts" in order to test their personalities and measure the thickness of their skin. I was actually annoyed with this tactic, which seemed overly intrusive and inappropriate, but, perhaps in the 70's, directors used such devices to form the cohesion of the Broadway ensembles. It is unimaginable that such a device would even last a moment in today's culture. Some of these characters balked at the public unpeeling of their lives and some relished the spotlight. One who balked was Cassie (Ms. D'Amboise), who had once lived with Zach, as it was revealed, and another was Sheila (Ms. Goodwin), who was told, "take down your attitude". Still another, Paul (Jason Tam), was pulled aside to reveal his sad story in private, while Diana (Natalie Cortez) was thrilled to talk of her Puerto Rican background.

Greg (Michael Paternostro) was hilarious in his Brooklyn shtick, while Connie (Lisa Ho) came across as adorable, although not your typical chorus girl. Paired with Paul, however, they were pint-sized dynamos. Another character that grew onstage was Val (Jessica Lee Goldyn), who belted out a most disarming and delicious rendition of Dance: Ten; Looks: Three, about changing her looks and job prospects with strategic plastic surgery, butt and breasts. Kristine (Chryssie Whitehead) and Mark (Paul McGill) were married, and only one could sing. So, could one of the pair be chosen? And on and on, the tension grew, but at a slow pace, as there were other tensions brewing, such as the confrontations with Sheila and the sometimes lengthy revelations, via Zach's compulsive questions.

One of the less "unpeeled" characters was Larry (Tyler Hanes), Zach's assistant, who was one of the best Broadway dancers I've seen. His up-front dance modeling, that drove the ensemble routines, was taut, precise, muscular, impassioned, and powerful. In fact, the dance routines (originally choreographed by Michael Bennett and Bob Avian) should have had more stage time. Cassie's big dance (The Music and the Mirror) in a striking red dress was interesting and indicative of her deep desire to dance once again, if necessary, in an ensemble, as the good roles had long eluded her. She had to win over Zach's recycled resentment to have her way. In fact, each character tried to have his/her way to join this show, but, as previously noted, only eight would be chosen, and the suspense was maintained through this two-hour, intermission-less production.

The Hamlisch-Kleban songs were and are still gorgeous. Many still replay in my mind, such as I Hope I Get It (pulsating, feverish), At the Ballet (about how beautiful everything is at the ballet, and it certainly is), Val's big body number, What I Did for Love (which became a huge hit and was recorded and performed by many), and, of course, One, which bounces in my mind like a "broken record" (Remember those?). Patrick Vaccariello's musical direction and conducting of Jonathan Tunick', Bill Byers, and Hershy Kay's orchestrations bring us back to 1975 like a time machine, when this show was a blockbuster. I'm not sure this revival will be another blockbuster, because today's audiences expect big scene changes, dazzling costumes that keep emerging, extended ensemble dances, and persuasive ownership of individual roles.

The roles in this production are the roles of the original production, but, unlike most shows, those roles (and thus, that book) were written by the 1975 actors telling their own unique stories to Michael Bennett. Today's production revives those stories on new actors, and some, more than others, pull off the personas. Jason Tam as Paul is an example of internalized role success. Chryssie Whitehead as Kristine was less convincing, and her inability to sing was over-stretched to shrillness. Michael Berresse as Zach had just the right amount of edge for 2007, but his interpretation may have been personal. So, too, were Lisa Ho's and Natalie Cortez' roles convincing. In fact, Diana (Ms. Cortez) mentioned Channel 47, a Latino TV station, that obviously did not exist in 1975. There were these occasional au courant moments.

Robin Wagner's mirrored sets appeared and disappeared on cue for multiple figured effects, especially in Cassie's dance, and Tharon Musser's (with Natasha Katz) lighting was critical to the show's momentum. When characters thought "out loud", like in the song, I Can Do That, the lights were dark and spotlights were active, while an ensemble number that was performed, like One, shone in all its gold, glitter, and glamour. Sound design was perfect, as so many shows today are over-miked. I could hear every word, and none were echoing or tinny. Sound design happens to be an underappreciated quality. I hope this revival of A Chorus Line lasts fifteen years, as did its predecessor, but, for that level of success, given the original structure, some of the actors need to better own their roles, and a curtain call with another "reprise" would be in order. What comes to mind is the Ailey Company's Revelations, with that "one more time" gospel song and dance. It's predictable and delectable, like a final sip of cognac. Bob Avian should have ordered at least a curtain call, let alone a final "reprise". The curtain fell abruptly and the audience was shuffled out the side door. A Chorus Line and its fine cast deserve individual and ensemble bows, and its audience deserves One one more time.
Charlotte d'Amboise in A Chorus Line

Charlotte d'Amboise in A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


The cast of A Chorus Line

The cast of A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


The cast of A Chorus Line

The cast of A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


The cast of A Chorus Line

The cast of A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Michael Baresse (center) and the cast of A Chorus Line

Michael Baresse (center) and the cast of A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Charlotte d'Amboise, Mara Davi, Brad Anderson and Tony Yazbeck in A Chorus Line

Charlotte d'Amboise, Mara Davi, Brad Anderson and Tony Yazbeck in A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Jeffrey Schecter in A Chorus Line

Jeffrey Schecter in A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Charlotte d'Amboise in A Chorus Line

Charlotte d'Amboise in A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Jessica Lee Goldyn, Paul McGill, Jason Tam and Natalie Cortez in A Chorus Line

Jessica Lee Goldyn, Paul McGill, Jason Tam and Natalie Cortez in A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


The cast of A Chorus Line

The cast of A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


The cast of A Chorus Line

The cast of A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


The cast of A Chorus Line

The cast of A Chorus Line

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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