On Wednesday, Fighting Chance Productions opened A Chorus Line at the Waterfront Theatre, putting on an energetic show for a full house. With Edward Kleban’s lyrics and Marvin Hamlisch’s captivating score, A Chorus Line ran on Broadway from 1975 to 1990, becoming the longest running musical at the time. It remains the sixth longest running Broadway show today. With such a successful history and high expectations from the audience, Fighting Chance’s youthful cast and crew pulled it off brilliantly.
When entering the theatre, the audience was met with the stage already lit and full of actors, as they warm up for the upcoming “audition”. This allowed the audience members to be calmly entertained as everyone found their seats, while also providing a peek into the dedication and hard work in a dancer’s life. This was a creative way to welcome the audience, and transition smoothly into the world of the show, where a group of dancers are put to the test in a challenging audition. The show follows the 17 dancers as they audition for the director, Zach (Christopher King), and share their personal stories with him. During the majority of the show, Zach is scripted to be at the back of the theatre, watching the audition. However, this production had him on the side, in the aisle. This may have been for technical reasons, but it resulted in all the actors giving a large amount of their performance to the side, which was ultimately distracting.
The choreography throughout the show was a blend of original material and new, which gave the show it is expected and original charm, but also provided the dancers with manageable choreography. In fact, I thought Director and Choreographer, Rachael Carlson, did a very clever job of using the cast members to their strengths. The strong dancers on stage were utilized and shown off, while the less experienced dancers were used effectively to demonstrate the difficulty and awkwardness of the audition process. Together it made for a realistic demonstration of the various experience levels found in a real audition studio. With a cast of emerging artists, it is difficult to pull off a perfectly coordinated combination, but Carlson managed to put together satisfying pieces by using the dancers strategically and truthfully.
Under the musical direction of Arielle Ballance, the cast proved to be shockingly skilled and ambitious, both in solo work and ensemble pieces. Again and again, I was surprised as the soloists confidently took the stage and belted their songs. Nothing, sung by Vanessa Quarinto (Diana), 4’10” sung by Jolene Bernardino (Connie), and several other solos demonstrated to be technically skiled and consistently professional. The group numbers were precise, clean and vocally energized. I think the singers repetitively proved to be well beyond their years, since many of them are still in University programs, or recently graduated.
I would like to applaud many of the actors who used their bodies fully and truthfully, quite often to successfully draw laughter from the audience. One that stuck out for me was Lindsay Marshall (Val), as she sang Dance 10, Looks 3, and paraded across the stage in a hilarious fashion. Her monologue and song were expressive and energetic and full of tiny details that made the performance pop. Hailey Fowler (Judy) and Eric Vincent (Bobby)’s physical choices also brought variety and quirkiness to the ensemble.
However, there were also moments when spoken text was not portrayed strongly, and meaning was lost. During a few monologues and lines, the focus in the room slipped, and the audience was no longer drawn in. This was especially apparent for me during Paul (Jess Alvarez)’s monologue about drag shows, and the dialogue-heavy sections between Cassie (Lucia Forward) and Zach. After hearing the super strong, connected, natural singing voices these actors all had, the scene work was disappointing. While singing and dancing, these actors proved to be intriguing and skillful, but when it came to the scenes the connection, and desperation that is vital to the plot, was lost. This may have been due to the director changing midway through rehearsals (Ryan Mooney was originally directing the production). Alternatively, perhaps they just spent more time focusing on the singing and dance sections, which I would easily believe because of how sharp and effective they were.
The show ends with a well-known, spectacular reprise of One, and the cast did not disappoint! Neither did the extraordinary golden costumes, sparkly curtains, and bright lights! Since the majority of the show had simple (but effective) costumes and sets, the end number exploded and made an excellent and impressive ending with the ensemble coming together harmoniously.
The cast’s commitment, talent, and individuality made for a lively production and helped give a truthful look into the competitive and heartbreaking nature of dance auditions, and ultimately, the performance industry. Although there were a few missed moments here and there, the cast and crew demonstrated unexpected professionalism, unique charm and plenty of talent.
A Chorus Line runs until September 2nd, every night except Mondays, at 8 PM. Saturday shows at 2 & 8 PM.
Did we get something wrong? Let us know! Contact the writer, Sophia Saugstad, at firstname.lastname@example.org