‘A Chorus Line’ steps, kicks, then touches our hearts, again

Chorus Line-Weston

The featured cast of ‘A Chorus Line.’ Photo by Tim Fort

By David Lampe-Wilson
©The Chester Telegraph – 2014

Nearly four decades after it opened on Broadway, A Chorus Line remains a “singular sensation,” at least as seen onstage at the Weston Playhouse Theater. A show primarily about dance and the dancers, the current production in Weston is cast with triple threats: they can sing, they can dance, they can act. Considering that there are no fewer than 17 young principle players, it is a remarkable feat of casting.

A Chorus Line on stage seems far more cinematic than its pale movie version. The show cuts between characters, constantly changing focus with an omnipresent score by Marvin Hamlisch playing underneath. Conceived and choreographed by Michael Bennett, with Bob Avian, the show is a series of character sketches, enacted in a sublime blend of staging, music and movement.

For those who somehow have never encountered A Chorus Line, it is an intermission-less, dance-oriented musical in which a series of young auditioners demonstrate their talents and bare their souls to a demanding director in hope of getting a slot in the chorus of a new show. Each auditioner tells his/her story; these stories are based on experiences of actual Broadway dancers.We learn their hopes, dreams, triumphs, tragedies, weaknesses, phobias, humiliations and fears.

Some of the stories are so intimate that it is like watching a precursor to current reality shows as Zach, the director, browbeats his future chorus into confession after confession. Each member of this future chorus line is exposed in their individuality but by the finale, all these individuals disappear into the anonymous chorus line, and the angst and the desire are buried in a line of sparkling costumes and unison high-kicks.

Director Malcolm Ewen has had to squeeze a lot of actors onto the tiny Weston stage and while some of the visuals look a bit clunky, the show sails smoothly along. Aided by choreographer Michael Raine, they have cadged much of Michael Bennett’s original staging/movement, which outshines their new versions of some numbers. Still, while the original choreography is more highly polished, what is new is certainly more than serviceable.

What is so strong about this production is its cast. There are no star players here; each member is featured in some way, then withdraws and director Ewen has been able to mold a true ensemble. Yes, some characters get us to laugh, others draw our tears, but none outshines the other. It is the perfect definition of synergy.

Seen in final preview, there was the occasional hesitant line and missed lighting cue, but these minor glitches could not impede such a sterling production.

A Chorus Line opened off-Broadway in 1975. It was new, it was different and it was quickly transferred to Broadway where it was the hottest ticket in town, winning a passel of Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. It has since played around the world and enjoyed a host of revivals. You will find Weston Playhouse Theater’s production of A Chorus Line is a most worthy revival of an old stalwart.

A Chorus Line continues through Aug. 23 at the Weston Playhouse, 703 Main St., Weston. Performances: Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, call 802-824-5288.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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