“A Chorus Line” as a Period Piece

Wahle as Zach with Ensemble. Photo by Herb Philpott.

Presented by Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
Conceived and Originally Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett
Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Originally Co-Choreographed by Bob Avian
Direction; Recreation of the Original Choreography by Leslie Woodies
Music direction by Dan Rodriguez
Assistant Director/Assistant Choreographer – Lauren Gemelli

June 7 through 17, 2018
Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
617 Lexington St., Waltham, MA 02452
Reagle on Facebook

Reviewed by Bishop C. Knight

(Waltham, Massachusetts) I had never seen A Chorus Line so, for readers who are unfamiliar with this 1975 Broadway musical about life in show biz, please let me provide a brief summary.  On a bare stage, a group of dancers bring their headshots and personal histories to an audition where they share their birth names, stage names, birthdays, and ages, as well as their most formative life experiences.  There was a tough boy from the Bronx, another guy from a big Italian family, a saucy woman who flirted with the director, and fifteen more performers – all with large and extremely memorable personalities.

I think I may be a theatre-goer who does not enjoy the trusty old classics.  A few weeks ago I attended Cabaret and felt let down by that particular production.  I departed Reagle Music Theatre with a similar disappointment.  Because the dancers grievously complain. Connie is a Chinese American who introduces herself as born on “December 5, 4642, the Year of the Chicken” and this character fusses about being only 4’10”.  Mike is the last of twelve children in a family from Trenton, New Jersey, and this character angrily shouts “I didn’t want anybody to call me twinkle toes!” On and on, the chorus line expresses the offenses that afflict their psyches.  My unconcern was less of a dismissal – I too am a sensitive artist prone to bellyaching – but more of a flatness from watching something that was passé.

While I was mostly unmoved by this play, the audience around me was a generous crowd that clapped after every dancer’s monologue.  The audience around me was composed of older white patrons and, I estimate, none of whom were younger than seventy years old. Outside the theatre, there were shuttles with logos identifying assisted living communities.  I delight in the diversity of theatre performance and how certain playhouses strive to provide storytelling to specific audiences, so I’m not being ageist (at least, trying not to be). Just noting that from conventional production choices, to very loud background music, this staging was fashioned without frills or modernisation and for an older homogenous house.

Actor wise, it was a talented ensemble.  The actress Victoria Byrd has a stunning and full voice,  powerful and reminiscent of Aretha Franklin. IRNE Award winner Scott Wahle became his character Zach, the paternal director who presided over the audition.  But still, the entire show had the musty scent of an outdated generation. I never think of 1975 as far in the past but, while A Chorus Line may’ve been a big Broadway hit in the late 1970s and the 1980s, I am uncertain about how much it’ll hold up in the future.

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