It's been 37 years since "A Chorus Line" became a Broadway sensation. On Monday, a bus-and-truck touring version of the trailblazing, Tony Award-winning musical opened the Plaza Theatre's 2012-2013 Broadway series. It also will be performed at 7 p.m. today and Wednesday at the Spencer Theater in Alto, NM, near Ruidoso. Call 888.818.7872 for tickets. Theater reviewer C.B. Goldsmith offers his thoughts on Monday's performance.
By C.B. Goldsmith
I’m not a dancer (except in my secret soul), but I’d like to think that to trip the light fantastic must be a lot like athletics — it chooses you and until you can no longer move. The dance is never over.
“A Chorus Line," the national touring company of which played the Plaza Theatre Monday night, exemplifies this love affair between the dancer and the dance.
Seventeen hopefuls audition for only eight spots in the chorus of a Broadway show. The chorus is like the enlisted men and women of the theater, who toil behind the lines and make the stars shine brightest through their supporting efforts. If they are noticed or stand out, they have failed.
The show is about that work in progress: How a supporting cast leaves its egos and dreams at the stage-door and becomes the team behind the team.
I was lucky enough as a teenager to accompany my folks to Michael Bennett’s original Broadway production. I remember its power vividly. I heard actors telling tales so different from my own life, yet, even as an unsophisticated kid, I could hear their collective humanity.
As the dancers audition, the director probes them about their lives and their motivations. Their stories are the powerful dramatic content that connects the music by the late, great Marvin Hamlisch and the phenomenal lyrics of Edward Kleban (also deceased) to create a show that remains thrillingly profound almost 40 years after its Broadway debut in 1975 (which featured late El Paso actor Rene Clemente).
This production retains that original power through performances that wowed the sold-out audience. Among the “girls,” Lauren Nicole Alaimo as Diana and Aisling Halpin as Val gave remarkable performances. Halpin’s song “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” was show-stopping in both its lyrical and comedic power.
In smaller supporting roles of note, Bronwyn Tarboton’s voice as Maggie was glorious, as was Ashley Klinger’s acting as the loopy Kristine. The dancing of Caley Crawford was exceptional, and Brooke Morrison as Sheila balanced her physical movements effortlessly with her comedic snarkiness. Both made the large space of the Plaza stage intimate through their delicate stagecraft.
Amongst the boys, the heartbreaking part of Paul was perfectly delivered by Eddie Gutierrez. He makes Paul’s far-from-normal life universal. I had a lump in my throat, just as I did in 1975. The dancers (as you would expect in a touring company of this caliber) were terrific, though Sharrod Williams and Michael Peter Deeb had that physical magic that turns great dance transcendent.
The sublime talent of this show and of these dancers’ lives is the audition process to which we are privy. Each dancer had to begin unsure and awkward. By the theater-rattling finale of “One (Singular Sensation),” they had become great before our eyes. Director and choreographer Baayork Lee deserves huge praise for her talented tempering with the cast’s subtle becoming."
Ultimately, “A Chorus Line” retains its powers to move audiences thanks to three components. The first is dance, a talent not unlike athletics, where the performer works effortlessly within the air as we earth-bound types gaze up in amazement. They make the beautiful seem easy.
The second element is the act of taking the audience backstage to show us how the chorus develops and, in doing its best work, disappears. Like the bench player whose single rebound or sacrifice bunt in baseball allows the star to win the game, so those behind-the-scenes can make their team greater.
And finally, there is love, not only for the game but the craft that long ago selected the players, not vice versa. Performance may never love them back, and though their days in the air are numbered from that first leap onward, they lift us with them. They toil, often in obscurity to serve the greater good. In the end, it’s simply what they do for love.