A Chorus Line (Review)

Classic musical explores the psyche of performers

Critic's Pick

If you’ve ever been drawn to perform, A Chorus Line will hit you right in the gut. The show distills the essence of what drives people who dance, make music and act. It’s not about egos but rather the passion that makes them yearn to perform even when rejection is as likely as success. As one memorable lyric suggests, it’s about “the sweetness and the sorrow.”

A Chorus Line involves individual dancers who must blend into a uniform “line.” Only eight will be chosen from a much larger set of aspiring dancers, most of whom have the chops to do the routines. They’re multiplied again and again by the show’s mirror-laden set; they are passionate souls who must collaborate precisely. The iconic dance number for which they vie to be chosen, “One,” backs up a star performer. But together these dancers collaborate for a powerful onstage moment.

The show is a long audition session during which a director interrogates the dancers about why they feel driven to dance. They stand along a line, 17 of them, revealing individual dreams and secrets, talents and shortcomings. At the end of two hours (no intermission) we’ve come to know and love most of them — haughty Sheila (Emily Fletcher), perky Val (Mindy Dougherty), possibly over-the-hill Cassie (Robyn Hurder), feisty Morales (Rebecca Riker), introverted Paul (Bryan Knowlton) and extroverted Mike (Clyde Alves) — as they step forward individually for musical numbers, then return again and again to the line and the harsh glare of a light powered by reality.

But aspiration is the motivation driving each character, and while this touring cast is clearly practiced at this show’s exhilarating dance routines, you truly feel as if you’re watching something new and fresh, right in the moment. A Chorus Line was a Broadway hit for 15 years. This touring production shows why it had such staying power. After 30 years, I’m still moved.

A CHORUS LINE, presented by Broadway Across America, continues through June 7 at the Aronoff Center. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.

Rick Pender

RICK PENDER has written about theater for CityBeat since its first issues in 1994. Before that he wrote for EveryBody’s News. From 1998 to 2006 he was CityBeat’s arts & entertainment editor. Retired from a long career in public relations, he’s still a local arts fan, providing readers (and public radio listeners)...
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