By Jennifer L. Gusso
Running Time: 2 hours
A little before show time at Phoenix Festival Theatre, the cast of A Chorus Line (Music by Marvin Hamlisch, Lyrics by Edward Kelban, and Book by James Kirkwood, Jr.) slowly starts to enter the room. They set down their bags and waters. They stretch and practice combinations and otherwise get ready for the audition to resume. There is a subtle and gradual segue into the performance. The show just starts to happen around you. It is this acute level of verisimilitude that works so beautifully throughout the entire production. It definitely justifies running so long without intermission, which would have broken the mood.
Director and Choreographer Becky Titelman makes smart choices in the concept and the direction to focus on keeping things real and raw throughout. She finds ways to infuse an air of sophistication while focusing on keeping the choreography simple enough that it makes dancers of various levels all look good. The staging is simplistic, as is apropos to the show, and it allows the actors’ movements to look genuine and not forced. Similarly, the Lighting Design by Bill Price maintains the same careful design that ends up almost invisible, as the focus is on the characters and the moments that they are living.
Like any production, there are a few times that a note is missed or out-of-range or a performer is momentarily out-of-step, but it doesn’t even matter because these characters are so solid and strong that the audience is rooting for them in every moment – sometimes even more in the occasional moments of imperfection. This cast always gets what matters right – truly living out these moments in a way that draws the audience in. Never once do any of the performers appear to be “acting.” If you didn’t know any better, it would be easy to believe they were just spontaneously sharing their own experiences.
Additionally, the cast is incredibly well-balanced. They know when to take their own moments and when to support each other. It is almost impossible to pull out individual performances, as they truly meld and connect as an ensemble. Every actor has a moment that belongs to them, and none of them let that moment go to waste. Even the little details and moments are reflective of the focus on character, such as the way that arms are held and the selection of facial expressions.
Stephen Deininger (Zach) is the powerful presence presiding over everything and shows careful nuance in just how much he does and doesn’t reveal what he is feeling in dramatic moments. Leslie Perry (Lori) is a captivating dancer. Liz Marion (Cassie) oozes with raw emotion in “The Music and the Mirror” but then shows great control in becoming one with the line. Emily Machovec (Sheila) has stellar deadpan delivery and embodies the physicality of her character – right down to the way she walks. Angie Sokolov (Val) brims with crazy personality and excellent comedic timing. Ally Morris (Diana) tells every story with her eyes in a way that draws in the audience to hang on her every word. Samantha Jednorski (Judy) is truly delightful with her bursts of spunk and spontaneity. Stephanie (Kristine) and Matt Peterson (Al) are just adorable and their real-life chemistry sparkles in their duet. Sophia Williams (Maggie) has an angelic innocence and the voice to match. Eric Bray (Richie) sizzles with electric energy and stellar vocals. Aaron Knight (Mark) shows strong storytelling chops in his hysterical monologue. Not only does Tyler White (Paul) have the advantage of getting some of the best material in the show, he takes that advantage and runs with it. His monologue was heartbreaking and raw and relevant.
A Chorus Line is a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the theater, and you should definitely go and check it out this coming weekend (if you can find any tickets left!).
This is what I thought of Phoenix Theatre Festival’s production of A Chorus Line… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
A Chorus Line will play through March 15 at Phoenix Theatre Festival at Harford Community College, 401 Thomas Run Road, Bel Air, MD. Purchase tickets by calling 443-412-2211 or purchase them online.
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