Chorus Line at Centrepoint: a production full of heart.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre

At the heart of Chorus Line is the huge contrast between the opening and closing scenes. The intentionally ragged beginning features some two dozen dancers, a few practising exercises, others meandering around, all anxiously waiting to strut their stuff so that the director will choose them from among their rivals for a place on the line. The closing number shows the dancers as a unit, the perfect backup for the star of the next Broadway show.

And the paradox of the creation of the well-oiled dancing machine, peopled by anonymous dancers moving in unison, is that, along the way, Chorus Line morphs into often tragic tales about the individuals and the life-and-death importance of this audition, the next and the many beyond that.

In the vein of art imitating life, choreographer/director Michael Bennett developed the concept for the 1975 show from a series of taped interviews with dancers who had faced cattle-calls like these many times through their careers. The show, with book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kieban, was to become one of the longest running Broadway musicals of all time.

Although the aim of the tough director, Zach, (Bennett’s alter ego?) is to whittle the group down to the final eight and to transmit some of the characters’ pain, as well as the glory of succeeding, Chorus Line remains an uplifting experience and the current Orpheus Musical Theatre Society production, directed by Debbie Guilbeault, offers both the pain and the joy in equal parts.

Each of the finalists on the line has a moment in the sun. At the top of the tree is Andrea Black as Val who delivers a spectacular rendering of Dance: Ten; Looks: Three (the ode to plastic surgery better known as Tits and Ass). Another standout among the group of strong performers is Jack MacDougall. During his monologue as Paul, explaining how he hurt his parents because he was a performer in a low-end drag club, you could hear the proverbial pin drop.

Although Rob Henderson’s Zach is more fatherly than the usual harder, spikier version of the Broadway director and there seems to be little chemistry in the interaction with his former girlfriend, Cassie, (Christa Cullain) there are really no weak performances in this show, simply some that are more effective than others. Guilbeault, with musical director Wendy Berkelaar and choreographer Derek Eyamie, presents this Chorus Line, against set designer Jenn Donnelly’s mirrored background, as it should be: a salute to the highly trained hoofers of musical theatre.

This fine Chorus Line, a production full of heart, continues at Centrepointe Theatre to March 13

Conceived and originally choreographed and directed by Michael Bennett

Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante

Music by Marvin Hamlisch

Lyrics by Edward Kleban

Co-choreographed by Bob Avian

Orpheus Musical Theatre Society

 

Director

Debbie Guilbeault

Musical Director

Wendy Berkelaar

Choreographer

Derek Eyamie*

Technical Director

Steve Jones

Set

Jenn Donnelly

Costumes

Joy Lackey

Lighting

Chris Amott

Sound

John Cybanski

Zach

Rob Henderson

Larry

Drake Evans

Al

Thomas Shapiro

Bebe

Erynn Paton

Bobby

Jeremy Sanders

Cassie

Christa Cullain

Connie

Jasmine Lee

Diana

Rebeka Tekle

Don

Blair Laugher

Greg

Paddy McCarthy

Judy

Nolla Timmins

Kristine

Julia Redfern

Maggie

Katie Shapiro

Mark

Matthew Chin

Mike

Morgan Coughlan

Paul

Jack MacDougall

Richie

Antoine L. Collins

Sheila

Cynthia Wood

Val

Andréa Black

Ensemble

Sierra Brennan, Spencer Cripps, DeNeige Dojack, Mélanie Evans, Rhyanna Melanson,

 

Joyanne Rudiak, Rob Singlehurst, Sarah Smythe, Marco Walker-Ng

Pit singers

Sharon Dickson Jamie Rice

Orchestra

Michelle Ash, Brian Boggs, Nick Cochrane, Mike Estabrooks, Kellina Gehrels, Drum Hudson, Pierre Huneault, Scott Latham, Paul LeGault, Tom McMahon, Mike Mullin, Dave Renaud, Mike Tremblay, Cheryl Jarvis Woods,


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