Friday, September 28, 2018

A Chorus Line

It takes a lot of ambition to decide to do A Chorus Line at a small Off-Off-Broadway theatre. And it takes a lot of skill to pull it off. Luckily, the Gallery Players in Brooklyn have tons of both, and their production of A Chorus Line is fabulous.

Photo: Steven Pisano Photography

Directed by Tom Rowan, author of the book A Chorus Line FAQ, and choreographed by Eddie Gutierrez, who played Paul in national tours, the production hews faithfully and elegantly to the template set long ago by the brilliant director/choreographer Michael Bennett. The familiar ensemble dance numbers and solos are all there, at a remarkably high level. A Chorus Line requires performers who can dance, sing, and act, and most of the cast at the Gallery Players can do all three, in some cases superbly.

You probably know the story. A bunch of dancers assemble for an audition, and to "get to know them better" the director, Zach, asks them intrusively personal questions. When a dancer demurs, Zach asks them if they want to be in the show or not, with the clear message of "answer me or else!" I understand that this is a device to get the dancers to share their lives with the audience, but boy it makes Zach seem like a shit, recreationally torturing these poor people. I'm a big fan of Chorus Line, but I've always found Zach to be a weak link.

The dancers talk about their families, their childhoods, their adolescences, and why they dance. Mostly they sing, though there is a big scene toward the end that is done as a monologue rather than a number. (One of my few other complaints about Chorus Line is that the monologue is way too long.)

Photo: Steven Pisano Photography

The book, by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, is solid and often funny, though rumor has it that Neil Simon actually wrote some of the best lines. The book is also dated, but that's fine; the show is four decades old! The music (Marvin Hamlisch) holds up nicely, with some thrilling moments. The lyrics (Edward Kleban) are smart and seem fresher than the book.

The meat of A Chorus Line, however, is the dancing. Over forty years after it debuted, the choreography remains fresh and exciting, and I had tears in my eyes a number of times from its sheer beauty.

Outstanding in the strong cast are Shiloh Goodin as Cassie (she does a kick-ass "Music and the Mirror"), Melissa Glasgow as Sheila, Aramie Payton as Richie, Sarah Reynolds as Val (her "Dance 10, Looks 3" is much fun), Steven Rada as Paul, Caleb Schaaf as Bobby, and Tara Kostmayer as Diana.

And it's a handsome production, with with costumes by Antonio Consuegra (based very much on the original designs), set by William B. Sawyer, and lighting by Paul T. Kennedy.

The bottom line for this production of A Chorus Line, as it is for the majority of shows at the Gallery, is that the Players get and honor the essence of the work. Add to that the intimacy of the setting and the unmiked voices, and this Chorus Line is a total pleasure. (It only runs through this weekend, so move quickly if you're interested.)

Wendy Caster
(press ticket, first row)
Show-Score: 95

Zach: Brian Vestal*
Larry: Michael J. Baugh
Don: Ben Carlson
Maggie: Elizabeth L. Worley
Mike: Jay DeYonker
Connie: MinJi Kim*
Greg: Matthew Aaron Liotine*
Cassie: Shiloh Goodin*
Sheila: Melissa Glasgow*
Bobby: Caleb Schaaf
Bebe: Rachel Shafran
Judy: Emily Cochrane
Richie: Aramie Payton*
Al: Matt Lynn*
Kristine: Adrian Grace Bumpas
Val: Sarah Reynolds
Mark: Evan Hussey
Paul: Steven Rada*
Diana: Tara Kostmayer
Tricia: Caroline Schmidt
Vicki: Staci Merritt
Lois: Danielle Flood
Roy: Eli Douglas LaCroix
Frank: Anthony Obnial

*Equity member appearing with permission of Actors’ Equity Association without benefit of an Equity contract in this Off-Off Broadway


Producer: Dominic Cuskern
Director: Tom Rowan
Choreographer: Eddie Gutierrez
Music Director: Jason Liebson
Costume Designer: Antonio Consuegra
Set Designer: William B. Sawyer
Lighting Designer: Paul T. Kennedy
Sound Designer: Charlie Hill
Props Designer: Gabrielle Giacomo
Production Stage Manager: Michael J. Tosto*
Assistant Stage Manager: Elizabeth Fontaine

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