Theater Review: Weston’s Chorus Line’ is extravagant – and poignant
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | August 07,2014
Photo by Hubert Schriebl
The cast of Weston Playhouse’s “A Chorus Line.”
“A Chorus Line” is unlike most musicals in that it is real — its stories and emotional depth are authentic.
Weston Playhouse opened a production of “A Chorus Line” Friday that proved deeply moving — and most entertaining to boot.
Director Malcolm Ewen, one of Weston’s longtime triumvirate of producing artistic directors, had it right when he called the classic musical a good play about dancers. And that’s the way it was treated — as a truly poignant play.
And Weston’s sympathetic treatment did nothing to detract from its entertainment value. The production was as effervescent and extravagant as last year’s “42nd Street.”
Original choreography by Michael Raine joined the Michael Bennet classic dances in flowing almost seamlessly from beginning to end. Simple staging by Jim Sandefur and appropriate costuming by Karen Ann Ledger were made to seem extravagant by the truly creative lighting by Stuart Duke, Weston’s former managing director.
Marvin Hamlisch’s excellent music was delivered with flair by the pit band led by Larry Pressgrove, who was also responsible for the successful orchestra reduction.
“A Chorus Line,” though not quite as splashy as “42nd Street,” was among the most extravagant shows seen in Vermont — yet that is not what made it special.
The show has a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, with lyrics by Edward Kleban. But the show was initiated by Bennett, the original production’s director and choreographer, who collected stories from Broadway dancers.
It is those stories, supported by the music and dance, that give this show its power.
The concept is an audition for an upcoming Broadway show. From 17 professional dancers, eight will be chosen — “four boys and four girls.”
Jim Raposa plays Zach, the director who runs the show. Raposa’s Zach is stern but knowing, and can even be sympathetic and tender to a deeply hurting dancer. But he becomes completely unraveled when facing Cassie, with whom he once had a relationship.
As Cassie, Sara Andreas gave a dimensional performance as the veteran dancer who has failed to become a star and returned to the chorus line. Andreas, a Broadway veteran herself, proved a fine expressive dancer in her starring number as well as a poignant singer, sharing her plight in “The Music in the Mirror.”
The real tear-jerker, though, is when Michael John Hughes, in a deeply touching performance as Paul, tells of his parents’ discovery of his most tawdry performance. Even Zach is moved.
It’s not always so serious. Genna-Paige Kanako, as Val, delivers a delightfully brash, but with a touch of personal pathos, “Dance: 10; Looks: Three,” explaining that she had to buy new breasts to get noticed.
Nikka Graff Lanzarone is wonderfully caustic as veteran Sheila, a thorn in Zach’s side who knows the score all too well. And these are just a few of the fascinating but authentic stories.
At Friday’s opener, there wasn’t a weak characterization among the 23 on stage. Sure, there was some imperfect singing and dancing — as there would be at any audition. But the end result was, as Ewen said, a fine play about dancers.
Weston’s “A Chorus Line,” a fascinating two hours without intermission, is about as close to Broadway anyone can get in Vermont. And maybe it was a little more human.