Those of you who read my reviews on a regular basis know how important I feel the ensemble is to any musical, and there is no better proof of this than the amazing, award winning musical “A Chorus Line” based on the book written by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban. This masterpiece of character study that opened off-Broadway 35 years ago, then moved to Broadway and played for 15 years is the stunning look at hopeful dancers who are auditioning for a new Broadway show. Seventeen dancers, of all ages, sizes and nationalities are hoping to get their break, each one wondering how many will be taken and if they even stand a chance. As they learn their steps and routines, the director/choreographer Zach ( a powerful performance by Chicago veteran Tim Gregory) asks them to talk about their lives and why the have chosen the path they are on. While he starts off on stage where we see him interact with these young dancers, he moves to a booth somewhere above and continues speaking to them via a speaker system, thus, his bellowing words become more as if they were being questioned by God as to why they are where they are. The characters in this play are based on some interviews that the original director Michael Bennett had complied from real dancers and as an ex-actor ( I never could dance, but did have auditions that were almost akin to these except we sang and spoke) I know the feeling that comes over one when they are faced with an unknown such as “Who Am I Anyway”, one of the phrases in the opening number that is almost a play in itself “I Hope I Get It”.
Directed by Mark Lococo, who truly knows how to use Marriott Theatre’s formula in the round ( although the stage area is in reality a square) to its full advantage with extraordinary choreography by Rachel Rockwell, this is truly “one singular sensation”, making us laugh and cry and of greater importance, we become intimate with these dancers, these dreamers who do what they do for the love of what it is they do. As we hear their stories, we realize that many of them share the same type of family history- a lonely childhood, where pretending to be someone else makes them happy and gives them some reason to keep going. From Sheila ( Anika Ellis), Bebe(Pagah Kadkhodaian) and Maggie’s(Danielle Plisz) “At The Ballet” as each girls tells her story of no matter what went on with their family,”Everything was beautiful at the ballet”! and the gut-wrenching story that Paul ( deftly handled by Bryan Knowlton) tells of his homosexual existence after dropping out of school, we get the feeling that each of these characters is in fact real and all are using theater to escape from the lives they dread facing without the theater.
When Diana Morales ( the lovely Pilar Millhollen) tells of her acting school experience and all of the dancers express their youth in the Montage in the first act ( “Hello Twelve” and “Mother” a well as Richie’s “Gimme The Ball”) and with Val ( the very energetic Nina Fluke) does her number referencing adding some room to her “orchestra and balcony” ( actual name of the song “Dance : Ten;Looks: Three” otherwise known as the T & A song) in the second act we get into the very hearts and souls of the dancers. And then there is Cassie, she’s a little bit older than the others and as it turns out, at one time she and Zach were a couple- madly in love, until he chose his career over her. She was a featured dancer who went out to Hollywood and failed. Now she is back to basics and wants nothing more than to have the “Music And The Mirror” so she can dance. Mara Davi is glamorous as well as talented; she can sing as well as dance and while there is very little in the way of set design for a show like this, the clever use of the mirrors in her large solo piece shows just how creative minds can come to make anything possible. Thomas M Ryan is a magician. Diane Ferry Williams, as always has created the perfect lighting touches and as usual Nancy Missimi’s costumes are sheer perfection.Ryan T. Nelson handles the musical direction and the always reliable Patti Garwood conducts the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre Orchestra of eight, who sound three times larger in size and quality of music.
If anyone in your life has ever thought about becoming an actor/dancer/chorus person or is thinking about it now, this production should be mandatory. In fact, as hard as it might be to believe, many of Chicago’s finest young talents have never seen a production of this musical , and they should be required to do so before taking the stage. This is the perfect play for any theater lover as well and the Marriott production is probably the most powerful of the nine or ten productions I have seen to date. Before I forget to do this- Here are the names of the other cast members in this production, the high energy dancers and singers ( who can also act) who make sthis production as great as it is:
Matt Rafferty ( always a treat to watch on stage),Adrain Aguilar and Alexander Aguilar,Jameson Cooper,Jastine Dumlao,Adam Estes,Zachary L. Gray,Nicole Hren, Jordan Fife Hunt, Brandon Koller,Max Kumangai ( Richie),Ashton R. Napier, Drew Nellessen, Adriana Parson, and the adorable Laura E. Taylor. There a few dancers who get cut in the opening number , but do come back for the extraordinary production of “One”, Chelsea Barker,Gary Carlson,Chie Isobe,Patrick Keefe and Ericka Mac. This is “One” hell of a production from start to finish and the only wish I would have would be that they drop the 15 minute intermission and keep the flow going. The intermission only draws the audience away from the story and it takes several minutes for most to get re-focused and into the story. It was written to be performed straight through, but the theaters like to sell candy and beverages ( although they don’t want it to come into the theater) so I guess it will stay as two acts. and will continue at The Marriott Theatre at Lincolnshire through October 31st with performances as follows:
Wednesday 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.,Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
I cannot imagine how they can have the energy to do two of these shows in one day, but we were at the second show tonight and I guarnatee you no energy was spared. Monday and Tuesday must be like a vacation to these performers.
Tickets range from $35 to $48 plus tax and on selected shows, students and seniors get $5 off per ticket). There are also dinner packages available on Wednesday and Thursday for $55 per person ( that is a real bargain) as well as on the other nights subject to availability ( check with box office). You can purchase your tickets at the box office, by phone at 847-634-0200 , online at www.ticketmaster.com or at www.MarriottTheatre.com
The theater is located at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort locate at ten Marriott Drive, just south of Half Day Rd. ( route 22) and just east of Milwaukee Avenue ( Rte 21) in Lincolnshire. There is plenty of free parking on the grounds as well as valet parking services and along the route to get there, plenty of other dining spots. This is a DO NOT MISS show and well worth the trip, from anywhere to Lincolnshire!