THEATRE REVIEW: A CHORUS LINE
By Jain Lemos
The stakes are high for the performance artists who must find ways to match the talent and motivations of their characters in Landmark Musicals’ season closing production of “A Chorus Line” at the Rodey Theatre. The musical received a received Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976 as a candid glimpse into a career on stage. The story brings background to forefront as a band of auditioning dancers—hired to support the real stars—are required to talk openly about why they should be chosen for the job. One by one, their long-held aspirations and worries are allowed to surface during a day of make-or-break tryouts for a new show.
There is no denying that the cast is grabbing a sizeable chunk of Broadway lore. Director Zane Barker stays true to Michael Bennett’s original structure and his performers deliver a valiant effort in recreating this trailblazing chartbuster filled with smiles, slipups and soul searching. Working tirelessly to guarantee satisfying coordinated routines are husband and wife choreographers Louis and Courtney Giannini. The opening rehearsal scene featuring the era’s definitive jazz combinations is gratifying.
As the tap happy Mike, Kevin Gallacher takes the lead with a punchy version of “I Can Do That” and skillfully flips the troupe into a winner-take-all competition. Personalities emerge during the company’s montage, “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love”, where memories of traumatic events from their early teens are shared. This song is also one of several places throughout the narrative where sexuality is frankly discussed, a risky concept when written.
Rebecca Turiciano is given two substantial vocals with the part of Diana. She’s great in her parody account of a teacher’s method acting madness during “Nothing”, though she gains higher marks for acting as her singing waivers between pitchy and voice strain. Her tone improves slightly for “What I Did for Love” and even surpasses expectations during phrases.
Brynlyn Loomis is one of the best jazz dancers on stage playing Val in terrific fashion and performing “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” with cool composure. Loomis pulls parallels from her own path to ignite the spirit of Val’s personality. Val is flat chested and not attractive enough to land parts so she undergoes cosmetic surgery. Loomis, a New Mexico native, spent a decade navigating the New York dance scene going up against much taller dancers by developing superior strength through professional pole dancing competitions and by becoming a master climb and spin instructor.
Taking the stage alone as Cassie, a fading principal who desperately wants to work again even if she’ll only be in the chorus, is Landmark veteran Wendy Leverenz Barker. Her ballet for “The Music and the Mirror” is heartfelt and lovely, showcasing grace and maturity as her artist’s statement. Watching is stage and screen thespian Dean Eldon Squibb as Cassie’s old-flame Zach, the nerve-wracking director who challenges all resolve. Squibb steps into the role faultlessly as the boss and shows a first-rate feel for the music as he leads the cast in learning their contemporary steps.
A serious stretch of dialogue allows Giacomo Zafarano to stir up painful memories portraying Paul, a high school dropout who enters an underground world where he takes the stage in drag, hiding in shame from his family until a chance arrives to embrace himself with his parent’s acceptance and love.
Zafarano is an accomplished dancer who brings a deep understanding to the part and the theme with a sensitive and lively performance.
Keeping in mind the difficulty level, everyone has moments to shine and they use what they have to the best of their abilities. There are many positives to Landmark’s undertaking including Darby Fegan’s conducting. By time the indelible “One” starts tinkling from the piano, the players seem as though they are personal friends we’ll keep encouraging beyond the applause. The finale includes a magical showbiz quick change and when the gold glitters and the feet fly, the important stakes are reached.
Celebrating 40 years and continuous accolades, “A Chorus Line” runs at the Rodey Theatre Friday, Saturday and Sunday through December 6. For tickets call (505) 925-5858 or go to unmtickets.com