Entertainment » Theatre

A Chorus Line

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Apr 18, 2009
A scene from "A Chorus LIne," at the Ford Center through May 3.
A scene from "A Chorus LIne," at the Ford Center through May 3.  

What is there to say about Michael Bennett's A Chorus Line - in town for a limited engagement through May 3 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts (Oriental Theatre) - that hasn't been said before?

The show came to life on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre with its first preview on July 25, 1975.

Through the years, this dance musical has won piles of accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a special Obie Award and ten Tony Awards, including a Special Tony in 1984 when it was honored as the longest running American show in Broadway history.

It is certainly among the most celebrated musicals ever - leaving few to question its current marketing tagline: "The best musical ever."

But, in the interest of full disclosure, I must be forthright about a few personal factoids before continuing with this piece.

Most of these notches in "ACL's" belt were somewhat lost on this reviewer, whose taste in theater tends to favor the dramatic over the campy, the avant-garde over the international mega-sensation. I went into "ACL" blind, never having seen the show and only experiencing limited exposure to its music.

The production - featuring all the Broadway choreography originally overseen by Bob Avian and minimal "less is more" staging - managed to balance authenticity and relevancy while maintaining a timeless sheen without a hint of Botox.

In this time of abounding layoffs and losses, the despondence felt by the troupe of 17 dancers auditioning for a job is something that many of us can relate to, regardless of whether we can recognize a pirouette from a Lindy.

From the opening number - "I Hope I Get It" - through to the closing reprise of "One," we fall in love with each of the dancers desperately trying to appeal to Mike (Sebastian La Cause), a director casting for an upcoming Broadway production.

In addition to the fabulous dancing, we learn about why each dancer chose to pursue the industry, unveiling a sea of insecurities and past hurt touching on issues of family, body image, ethnicity and sexuality.

Among the particularly endearing, and believable, in their performances are the audience's sentimental favorites - Cassie (Robyn Hurder) and Paul (Kevin Santos). Hurder shines in her solo ("The Music and the Mirror"), as she explains why she wants to return to the "lowly" chorus line after having tasted higher successes.

Santos' performance, laden in a degree of naivety and apprehension, is also very sweet. The audience's collective disappointment for an injured Paul, carried off-stage to the ER late in the production, was palpable.

Obviously, other comic roles prevent the show from being all about dance steps and heartstring-pullers. Timing is everything for the character roles of the tone-deaf Kristine, the very gay Mark, the too-short Connie and the tits-and-ass-for-a-price Val, and the actors deliver.

"A Chorus Line" is a heart-and-soul musical theatre production akin to a grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of tomato soup - satisfying and comforting, with a touch of zest.

A Chorus Line runs through May 3 at the Ford Center, 24 W. Randolph, with performances Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm Tickets range from $18 to $85 and are available (along with a full performance schedule) at www.broadwayinchicago.com or by calling (312) 902-1400.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.

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