One Singular Sensation

Back in 1975 (when I was 15), I was in the High School program at Wilshire Blvd. Temple. This program was run by Rabbi Larry Goldmark, and consisted of famous Jewish people coming in and speaking to high school students. That day, the speaker was Marvin Hamlisch. Near the end of his talk, I had to leave to catch the bus to the westside. As I got to up leave, he asked me where I was going. I told him I had to catch a bus. He told me to stay, that he didn’t like to lose his audience–he would give me a ride home. True to his word, he did… and on the way, we stopped at the newstand in Westwood to see if any reviews of his new show were in. The show: A Chorus Line. A year or so later, I saw A Chorus Line myself at the Shubert Theatre in Century City.

Why do I mention this? This afternoon we saw A Chorus Line at Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks. The timing was good, as the show is currently on Broadway, and Cabrillo has one of the few licensed productions in California. For those unfamiliar with the story, it grew out of interviews held by Michael Bennett with the theatrical gypsies, members of the chorus. From these hundreds of hours of interviews he conducted the story of an audition, where each gypsy tells their story of why theatre and dance are a part of their life. There are all sorts in this crew: the children from abusive households to whom dance was safety and security; homosexuals; those trying for a comeback; those who can’t sing; those who can’t dance. All of these come together, through their stories, to pay homage to the unseen chorus line. Near the end of the show, one of the dancers, Paul, gets hurt in a tap number. After he’s taken away, the director asks the telling question: What would you do when you can’t dance anymore? What would you do if you couldn’t dance tomorrow? It is at this point that the show hammers the point home: We do what we do (hopefully) out of the love of the doing: “Kiss today goodbye, and point me toward tomorrow. We did what we had to do. Won’t regret, can’t forget, what I did for love.”

A Chorus Line (the “A” is part of a name in order to be first in the alphabetical listings) took Broadway by storm when it came out in 1975. It won nine Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, a New York Drama Critics Award for Best Musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It ran, sold-out, for 15 years on Broadway. It was the highlight of Bennett’s careers, and of Marvin Hamlish (the composer) and Ed Kleban (the lyricist). It was also a turning point in the evolution of Broadway. The only “set” consisted of mirrors; the only costumes being workout clothes (except for the last scene). The stage was a single line, and the mirrors. It was one act, no intermission. There were no stars: the focus was the ensemble, the gypsys. There was no formal curtain call; the finale, with everyone in gold lame, was the curtain call. This was drastically different than conventional theatre at the time.

I should note that the original cast album does not capture the show completely: some songs are omitted, the order is different, and some songs are incomplete. The movie is a travesty; don’t bother. The new cast recording restores the order, but still omits the number “And…”.

It is now 30 years later. How did this cast do? Very very well indeed. There were a number of standout performances, in particular, Ayme Olivo as Diana, Kai Chubb as Cassie, and Adrianne Hampton as Val. In general, all of the performances were strong. This is a remarkable statement to make, given that a number of the performers are still in high school. I can’t quite say as much on the technical side. There were a few cases where folks were undermiced, and I think part of the orchestra could have been amplified better as well. Even more problematic was the follow spots, which were often wandering the stage in search of their target. But other than that, it was excellent. I particular enjoyed watching the faces of the line during the performance of Dance: 10; Looks: 3, in particular Connie and Kristine. This is the last weekend of the show.

The cast consisted of: Trai Allgeier (Tricia), Robert Bastron (Bobby); Kai Chubb (Cassie); Haley Clair (Lois); Renee Colvert (Bebe); Brian Conway (Tom); Drew D’Andrea (Greg); Steven Ferezy (Roy); Karlee Ferreira (Vicki); Sarah Girard (Maggie); Daniel Guzman* (Zach); Adrianne Hampton (Val); Robert Holden (Al); Jeff Longenecker (Mark); Robert Marra* (Paul); Lana McKissack (Connie); Ayme Olivo (Diana); Tracy Powell* (Sheila); Matthew Alan Rawles (Don); Travis Robertson* (Richie); Kate Roth (Kristine); Anna Schnaitter (Judy); Kelly Tatro (Larry); Daniel Thomson (Butch); and Geoffrey Voss (Mike). The production was directed and choreographed by Kay Cole, with lighting by Steven Young, sound by Jonathan Burke, wardrobe by Christine Gibson, musical direction by Darryl Archibald.

As always, the upcoming theatre calendar: The Beastly Bombing, Fri, 11/10 @ 8pm; Sister Act, The Musical, 11/18 @ 9pm; Dirk, 11/19 @ 2pm; and A Light in the Piazza, 12/3 @ 2pm …plus I’m still working on tickets for 13 (12/30). Lastly, I should note that the userpic for this review is particularly appropros, as it is from the Pasadena Playhouse production of A Class Act, which was a musical based on the life of Ed Kleban, the lyricist for A Chorus Line.

*: Member of Actors Equity Association.