Ask any musical theatre director or actor what musical inspires them the most, and chances are the majority of those people will say A Chorus Line. It’s a universal love, much like sports fans and the movie Rudy or music fans and VH1’s Behind the Music. The reason for this love? It’s a classic story that any person dreaming of making it big on stage can relate to. This 1975 musical hit a chord with audiences and ran for 6,137 performances – making it the longest running musical in Broadway history. That is until a few cats came along. It won an unprecedented nine Tony awards and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the music goes down in history as some of the most moving and memorable songs to grace the Broadway stage. And now, Ignite Theatre Company is currently presenting this classic Broadway musical at the Aurora Fox through November 7th.
A Chorus Line is the story of 19 dancers, all trying to get a part in the chorus of a Broadway musical. The show is set on a bare stage, much like any audition would be, as it provides a glimpse into the lives of the performers themselves. Providing a window into what makes a person pursue this type of career, what inspires people to be a dancer, and what happens when a dancer is past their prime. Some of the most well known songs in Broadway history are a part of this show, including; “One (Singular Sensation),” “At the Ballet,” “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” and “What I Did for Love.”
Directed by Pat Payne with Music Direction by Midge McCoyer Smith, this production has some big hits, but also some misses. Unfortunately, the energy did drag, and there were moments where the band didn’t seem altogether connected with the performers, resulting in some sour notes and timing issues. Some performers also were much more connected to their roles than others. Though, a few of the performers truly stood out with some dazzling performances and visually, the production hit all the right marks – as Payne clearly worked very hard to pay tribute to the original production.
With such specific characterizations, it is clear that Payne paid close attention to bringing the right personalities to the stage. Chris Russell’s Mike was just as energetic and aggressive as this character should be – also showing off some strong vocal skills and impressive dancing. Devin Bustamante’s Richie was another notable performance, with perfect energy and strong movement. Angela Mendez as Diana is also truly sparkling, and her performance of “Nothing” is quite beautiful.
Also bringing a strong character and just the right amount of sass, was Melissa Morris as Val. Morris brought a ton of life and liveliness to the role, making “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” one of the highlights of the night. The other highlight of the evening was Colin Roybal with his portrayal of Paul. Roybal’s emotional monologue as a Gay dancer with a troubled past is heart wrenchingly beautiful, bringing many audience members to tears.
The strength of the performance also lies in the big group numbers. Choreography was true to the original production (re-created by D.P. Perkins, Stephanie Prugh, and Matthew Dailey) and as a result, many of the large group numbers are spectacular. Of course, you can’t talk about A Chorus Line without looking at the solo dance that shows off the role of Cassie, the former Broadway star that is struggling to get work. Liane Adamo takes on the role, and while her acting felt a bit disconnected, her dancing was spectacular, and her performance of “The Music and the Mirror” is stunning.
A Chorus Line is one of those shows that everyone can relate to. Even if you aren’t an actor or a musician, anyone can identify with the central themes of trying to be a part of something bigger, about overcoming your past, and about putting yourself “on the line.” If you have never seen A Chorus Line, then this is something that really should be on your list. If you have seen A Chorus Line, then there are some spectacular artists at work here that are deserving of your attention.
Ignite Theatre Company Presents:
A Chorus Line
Through November 7th At the Aurora Fox Arts Center – Main Stage
Tickets and information available at www.lucentperformingarts.org