A Chorus Line: Meant for One, Singular Audience (That May Not Be You)

Allison Russell as Maggie, Aimee Doherty as Sheila and Hannah Shihdanian as Bebe in A CHORUS LINE at Reagle Music Theatre June 15-24, photo credit Herb Philpott.

A Chorus Line, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, Reagle Music Theatre, 6/15/12-6/24/12, http://www.reagleplayers.com/current.html.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Waltham, MA) The Reagle Music Theatre is a supportive, intimate venue I remember with pleasure from when I visited it to review Christmas Time.  Reagle puts on the same high quality production in A Chorus Line, too, despite some difficulty with the microphones halfway through the play I sat through.

A Chorus Line fits for the Reagle even if the original material hasn’t aged well.In a way, it’s an intimate thing, too, a show where the audience spends a couple hours getting to know the characters, all of whom are aspiring Broadway stars.   Unfortunately, this creates a feedback loop that ends up saying very little new about the frustrations, angst, and sacrifices of an artist for his or her art.  It’s a Broadway show about Broadway and doesn’t push outside of this material.

A Chorus Line certainly tries to be honest about the life of an actor.  It’s not hard to see why the show was a hit during its debut in the 1970’s.  Unfortunately, many of the characters’ revelations about their lives, including homosexuality, parental neglect, and past love connections, no longer feel shocking.

Saying this, it certainly remains a cute show, just a little out of its depth.

The actors in this production do an excellent job with the material.  Particularly memorable is Lorenzo Lamas as the demanding director, Zach.  Lamas’s Zach initially interviews the chorus line hopefuls with a cold distance.  Even he, however, can’t stop himself from being pulled into emotional involvement with the young dancers.

Other strong moments include Val (Danielle Goldstein) describing her decision to get plastic surgery or the barbed, guarded, and very funny Sheila (Aimee Doherty) confessing to an unhappy childhood.  Having enough time for every single character to have a revelation is a tough thing to do, though.  The play tries to focus on everyone but ends up exploring no portrait to as thorough a degree as stage drama is often capable of doing.

Some of the songs certainly feel like they’ve been cut too long, as well, specifically “The Music and the Mirror” and the unending “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love.”  I found it very difficult to focus during these numbers and was disappointed none of them really told us anything new about the characters with whom we were spending so much time.

Yet A Chorus Line was still perfectly capable of emotionally moving music.  Songs like “Nothing” and “What I Did for Love” are performed passionately, warmly, and memorably.  I found myself also drawn into Val’s solo, “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” specifically its brutal, hilarious honesty about show business.

Perhaps A Chorus Line seemed brutal itself when it first hit Broadway in 1975.  If this was the case, its sharp edges have been worn away by time.  It’s a gentle distraction, these days, one that Reagle tries its best to revive for new audiences.  It succeeds, but only to the degree that the show will let it.

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