Saturday December 16th 2017

“A Chorus Line” in concert

I am a lover of “A Chorus Line” with a book by James Kirkwood Jr and Nicholas Dante and the music of Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Edward Kleban, but I guess for me, a concert version does not “cut the mustard”. “A Chorus Line” is about those ensemble members who create the background for the stars of a musical production, and for the most part, they are singers and dancers. Staging this particular musical with only a little dance kind of makes me feel that I may have been cheated out of what the story truly is about.

These young performers are trying to make it into a Broadway show and while I credit the amazing singers of Milwaukee Opera Theatre and the Theater Red people on their “joint venture”, I really feel that if you are to select this show, it should be a full- scale production so the audience gets to see the dance numbers. “The Music and The Mirror”, Cassie’s big number was shortened down to only do the vocal portion of the number and while Beth Mulkerron did a splendid job, I find the lack of the dance portion takes away from her character and the stuff between her and her ex, who is the Director of this play for which she is trying out .  Zach, her ex, is played by Joe Picchetti who for most of the show is offstage speaking to those ensemble would-be’s as they open their souls and hearts to him in hopes of getting cast in this show.

Yes, that is what “A Chorus Line” really is about- young hopefuls being asked to tell their potential employer their personal stories. This play was conceived during a time when Broadway was in a swoon and “A Chorus Line” revitalized the “American Musical” with a new focus, not so much on an actual story, but by having the characters IN the play, be the story! Many all-nighters were pulled with dancers, singers and actors spilling their guts. They spoke of their ambitions, their drives, dreams and the challenges in their lives as they “tried to make it”. It was a revolution and over the years, having seen over 20 productions, I have never lost the love I have for the story and the characters.

Understanding that this was a different type of presentation, I have tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. There were many sparkling moments and some strong talents. C. Michael Wright’s Paul is powerful and he did manage to bring a tear to my eye. Angela Iannone is a solid Sheila with just the right touch. Sheila is the older dancer who is there despite not wanting to be. While Richie (Bill Jackson) is usually a stand-out, here is where we could see that the age of the performers got in the way.I was surprised at the  “T and A” number (there were a number of younger audience members-this show should be PG13), but Val (played to perfection by Marcee Doherty-Elst) truly rang the audience’s bell. This is a story about YOUNG hopefuls with a few scattered veterans. This production had far too many over 40 performers and that can only hurt the overall totality.

Smoothly directed by Jill Anna Ponasik with musical direction by Ryan Cappleman and Choreography by James Zager , this condensed version of “A Chorus Line” is roughly 95 minutes in length and does not feature the finale that we have become used to. This is not a glitz production, but rather an opportunity to have some older members of the company take on roles that they could never do if they had to dance. The question they ask in one number is “Who am I anyway? Am I my resume? Is that a picture of a person I don’t know? This is the heart and soul of “A Chorus Line”!

The show was only two nights and is now over, but I wanted to advise you that this troupe will continue to do work and the drive to Milwaukee is really simpler than the drive into the loop. They do their shows on the campus of Cardinal Stritch University at 6801 N. Yates Road in Milwaukee and there is ample FREE parking. We made it from Marriott Lincolnshire, door-to-door in 78 minutes. To see what else is happening, visit  http://www.theaterred.comor call 1-800-838-3006

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