The Arlington Players A Chorus LineBy Bob Ashby • Sep 30th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
The Arlington Players: (Info) (Web)
Thomas Jefferson Theater, Arlington, VA
Through October 13th
2:05 without intermission
$23/$20 Seniors, Juniors
Reviewed September 28th, 2013
Anyone who auditions for local theaters knows the drill. One- or two-minute monologues; thank you very much. Alternatively, if the director is a more sensible sort, cold readings from the script with several people you don’t know. For musicals, 16 bars of a song, preferably not from the show; thank you very much. Where there’s dance to be done, 15 minutes of learning a combination that seems extremely simple to the choreographer, then attempting to remember it in front of the director in groups of four or five. And, oh yes, the two hours in which everyone explains to the director their dysfunctional families, adolescent emotional traumas, sexual orientation dilemmas, insensitive teachers, and concerns about chronic unemployment. Not. Of course, in considering A Chorus Line, currently running at The Arlington Players (TAP), we’re talking about a Broadway musical, an extremely successful one at that, so the necessity of suspending disbelief is consequently paramount.
To be fair, the subject matter of the show, if not its picture of the audition process, had a basis in reality, namely recorded conversations among dancers that were workshopped into the original 1975 production. What makes the show the success that it has become is less the life stories of its characters, however – accountants and plumbers can come from dysfunctional families too, after all – than its succession of Marvin Hamlisch hit songs and energetic, well-designed dance numbers.
The songs still work, going on 40 years later. “Dance Ten; Looks 3” (aka “Tits and Ass”), perhaps the all-time greatest anthem to the glories of plastic surgery, sparkles as Val (Dana Cass) struts her altered stuff, actually in a more understated way than in some productions. Diana (Amanda Kaplan) had two memorable numbers, leading the second act ballad “What I Did for Love” effectively – one might wish for a somewhat darker vocal tone in the song – and knocking “Nothing” clear out of the park. The latter, both a satire on the nonsensical theater games teachers and directors sometimes impose on actors and an evocation of her character’s detached emotional state as a teenager, is augmented by the ensemble’s well-choreographed, comic illustration of the theater games in question.
Shaun Patrick Moe (Mike), who also has a strong tenor voice, has an accomplished tap number (“I Can Do That”) early in the show. Another good high tenor in the group, Mark Allen (Al) and Nadine Rousseau (Kristine, Al’s wife), team up in “Sing,” in which Al constantly intervenes to provide sung words as his vocally challenged wife attempts to tell her story. The brassy Sheila (Kristen Magee) leads the wistful “At the Ballet,” joined by Bebe (Evie Korovesis) and Maggie (Caroline Griswold). As Cassie, Allison Block nails her emotional soliloquy “The Music and the Mirror” both vocally and in the number’s dance solo.
Cassie, a veteran performer seeking to start over as an ensemble dancer following an unsuccessful attempt at making it in Hollywood, was formerly in a relationship with Zach (Blakeman Brophy), the director/choreographer of the unnamed musical for which the other characters are auditioning. Zach opposes Cassie’s desire to return to the ensemble ranks, insisting that she is too good for such a role in the show. In part because of the unresolved feelings that he and Cassie retain for one another, he makes a point of being harder on Cassie than on any of the other dancers in the audition. In the only non-singing, non-dancing role in the show, Brophy is a thoroughly convincing tough but mostly fair, all-business, work-centered director. Zach’s gentlest moment comes when he attempts to help Paul (Chris Galindo), a shy, inhibited Puerto Rican gay man, express his feelings. Rather than giving Paul a song to tell his story, the playwrights chose an overly long monologue, which – perhaps inevitably given how it is written – Galindo delivers on a nearly unvarying note of pathos.
Among the best known pieces in the show is “One,” a number in which the ensemble sings the praises of the nascent show’s never-seen female lead, very much in the manner of the title songs from Mame and Hello Dolly. This is always a choreographic highlight of A Chorus Line, especially in the big production number-style reprise/curtain call. Like all Stefan Sittig’s choreography for the show, the number is beautifully designed and executed. In a show about dance and dancers, director Susan Devine was able to cast a group whose members were all able to learn an intimidatingly enormous amount of choreography, and who carry off a wide variety of dance styles and moves with precision and spirit. This is a cast full of triple threats, even in the smaller roles (e.g., Russell Silber as Bobby, who wants to be a movie star and has a delightful moment miming his story as other actors have intervening bits). Among the dancers, special mention should be made of Brook Urquart who, as Larry, the dance captain, is captivating to watch.
A Chorus Line takes place on a bare stage, the only set element being a series of upstage mirrors. In addition to suggesting the mirrors in a dance studio, the mirrors add depth to many numbers and reflect the audience as well as the performers. During Cassie’s “The Music and the Mirror,” a three-part mirror, reminiscent of the sort one finds in a clothing store, is flown in briefly behind her, but adds little to the look of the number. Chris Hardy’s lighting design was particularly strong on pools of area light (for example, as the cast enters during the reprise of “One”) and on the use of color (for example, during “The Music and the Mirror”). The cast sports a variety of costumes (design credits to Susan Devine, Anne Marie Nasto, Donna Naybor, and Araxie Vann). Many were informal rehearsal attire or dance togs, with others being distinct character highlights, like Cassie’s red dress and Val’s tight blue outfit (showing off the aforementioned t & a). They not only looked right; they performed the key task of enabling the cast to move freely. Paul Nasto’s orchestra accompanied the proceedings with nary a glitch to be heard.
At the end of the audition, Zach has to make his choices of which of the aspirants will get hired and which will get sent home jobless. The reasons for his decisions, like the casting choices of many directors, are opaque. In this respect at least, A Chorus Line touches the reality of the audition process, at least before the finale in which all the job seekers, those hired and those not, get to parade in spectacularly glittery gold costumes. If only.
Photos by Peter Hill
- Al: Mark Allen
- Bebe: Evie Korovesis
- Bobby: Russell Silber
- Cassie: Allison Block
- Connie: Gina Santos
- Diana: Amanda Kaplan
- Don: Ricardo Coleman
- Greg: Matt Greenfield
- Judy: Kim Paschall
- Kristine: Nadine Rousseau
- Larry: Brook Urquhart
- Maggie: Caroling Griswold
- Mark: Sean Cantor
- Mike: Shaun Patrick Moe
- Paul: Chris Galindo
- Richie: Willie Garner
- Sheila: Kristen Magee
- Val: Dana Cass
- Zach: Blakeman Brophey
- Ensemble Dancers and Pit Singers:
- Frank: Dimitri Gann
- Tricia: Katie Mallory
- Roy: Quinn McCord
- Lois: Michele Vicino
- Pit Singer: Tyler Lazzari
- Conductor: Paul Nasto
- Reeds: Gwyn Jones, Dana Gardner, Mila Weiss, Louis Reichwein
- Trumpets: Paul Weiss, Scott Firestone
- Trombone: Bill Wright, Rick Schutz, Chris Bradley
- Keyboards: William VanLear, Francine Krasowska
- Guitar: Eric Oganesoff
- Bass: Dave Burrelli
- Drums: Manny Arciniega
- Percussion: Jackie Bradley
- Producer: Amanda Acker and Leah Aspell
- Director: Susan Devine
- Music Director: Paul Nasto
- Choreographer: Stefan Sittig
- Stage Manager: Joan A.S. Lada
- Conductor: Paul Nasto
- Scenic Design/Master Carpenter: Bob Bell
- Lighting Design: Chris Hardy
- Sound Design: Dave Correia
- Costume Design: Susan Devine, Anne Marie Nasto, Donna Naybor, Araxie Vann
- Assistant Musical Director: Williams VanLear
- Assistant Choreographer: Kristina Friedgen
- Assistant Stage Managers: Meghann K. Peterlin and Nolan Hughes
- Rehearsal Pianists: Francine Krasowska and William VanLear
- Production Assistant/Light Board Operator: Laura Fargotstein
- Light Board Operator: Joni Hughes
- Dance Captain: Gina Constantino Santos
- Set Consultant: Dave Means
- Technical Advisor: Christopher Smith
- Sound Crew: Keith Bell, Stan Harris, Drew Moberley
- Flyrail: Steven Yates
- Set Construction Crew: Amanda Acker, Steve Lada, Christopher Smith, Rachel Wolkowitz
- Set Papers: Amanda Acker, Karinn Cologne, Barbara Esquibel, Joan Lada, Karen Togh
- Auditions: Jayn Rife and Carol Strachan
- Audition Pianist: William VanLear
- Audition Dance Instructor: Kristina Friedgen
- Box Office: Barbara Esquibel and Christopher Smith
- Program: Daren Batra
- Photography: Peter Hill
- Logo Design: James Villarrubia
Disclaimer: The Arlington Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9779.
Bob Ashby has been an active participant in the Washington-area community theater scene since his arrival in town in 1975.