A Chorus Line won Best Musical, Best Book and Best Original Score in 1976, and those watching the Welk Resort Theatre’s reprisal (through March 22) may call it the best commercial for becoming a dancer or actor, or absolutely not.
We follow 17 hopeful men and women through a strange and stressful audition for a Broadway production. The opening number “I Hope I Get It” is exhilarating and celebrates the tenacity of performers. We hear a rehearsal piano, dancers surge forward, and tensions grow. The dancers try to be brave but are desperate and have doubts. “I need this job…How many people does he need?”
The director Zach, played with realistic presence by Jeffrey Ricca, wants a strong chorus of “four boys and four girls.” So the weeding process begins; we are left in tears as the dancers hold their 8×10 headshots in front of them.
The audition structure becomes excruciating when Zach insists on hearing their personal life stories. It’s unsettling to hear about childhood abuse and painful struggles with families, aging, and acceptance. Anthony Michael Vacio delivers a heart-wrenching soliloquy as Paul, a gay man who finds acceptance as a drag queen.
A Chorus Line was gleaned from taped workshop sessions with dancers in the 70s and explores the lives of performers–their joys and sacrifices. It made important cultural leaps that are still relevant. Set on a bare stage with mirrors, the show explores key events and decisions that grow dancers. They find beauty in ballet. They accept their sexuality and limitations.
The irony is how the director pushes them to reveal personal stories, yet insists they dance as a unit and stifle their sparkling personalities.
Still, we meet Diana, a Latina who felt nothing in high school drama class, and bravo to Lauren Louis in the role, leading a montage of memories with full voice, in spite of a malfunctioning microphone.
Mikayla Agrella as Cassie has more energy than the sun and reminds everyone to go out there and reinvent yourself.
Their stories are depressing with flashes of levity.
As the sexpot Sheila, Natalie Nucci, a Welk favorite, struts like a diva and threatens to smoke on stage.
As Mark, Drew Bradford never breaks character, even recalling his wet dream, confession, and drinking too much water.
Holly Echsner, as Val, has jaws dropping when singing about plastic surgery. In her song best known as “Tits and Ass,” she explains how talent doesn’t count for everything…”
Danielle Airey, as ditzy Kristine, makes singing tone deaf a comic art form, with help from a smooth-voiced Cody Walker as her adoring husband, Al.
Director/choreographer Hector Guerrero preserves the angst and passion of working dancers and actors. His cast is diverse and enthralling, and the dancing is eye-popping, from the opening–step kick kick leap kick touch—to the feel-good finale with the full cast of 19 in sparkling costumes. The production has Broadway energy and would be more successful with a live orchestra and interactive rehearsal piano, rather than a recording.
Guerrero’s cast includes: Natalie Nucci, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Anthony Michael Vacio, Mikayla Agrella, Jeffrey Rica, Lauren Louis, Emma Nossal, Amanda Neiman, Trevor Rex, Donny Gersonde, Katie Marshall, Danielle Airey, Sarah Morgan, Aaron Shaw, Fisher Kaake, Devon Hunt, Cody Walker, Holly Eschner and Drew Bradford.