While playing a chorus line dancer in A Chorus Line obviously means you should be able to dance, it also means being a triple threat – able to sing and act as well. And although there are only a few real triple threats in the production currently playing at The Centre in Vancouver, every single one of this young cast is singularly sensational as dancers.
A group of 17 dancers auditioning for one of only four roles in an upcoming Broadway show chorus, are not only put through their paces by choreographer Zack (Michael Gruber), but in an unusual twist in this audition process, Zack delves deeper into their personal lives.
It is through this process that we learn about Paul’s (Joey Dudding) early days as a drag queen, Val’s (Mindy Dougherty) newly acquired “tits and ass”, Mike’s (Clyde Alves) story of how he became a dancer and Cassie’s (Robyn Hurder) return to Broadway after discovering she couldn’t make it in Hollywood. And as the show progresses, in its single two hour act without intermission, each of the dancers tells something about themselves that would not be found on the standard photo and resume.
Stand-outs here in the triple threat department are definitely Dudding, Doughtery and Alves as they tell three very different stories – one touching and sad and two rather silly and fun. There were also some small explosions of real brilliance from some of the other actors including Hollie Howard in “At the Ballet” and both Jessica Latshaw and Colt Prattes in “Sing!”.
But don’t get me wrong. Ultimately for me, A Chorus Line is about dancing and boy can these kids dance! And while all of the acting and singing might not be at the same level of their dancing abilities all is forgiven with numbers like “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love” and Robyn Hurder’s dance solo in “The Music and the Mirror” which almost had the audience on its feet. (I must admit though the one big disappointment in the dancing department was the “One: Reprise” which also acted as the curtain call – having so nailed the choreography in “One” just a couple of scenes earlier, this second, more glitzy version, wasn’t as tight as it should have been).
Originally produced on Broadway in the mid 70s, this version of A Chorus Line has wisely stayed away from a retro feel which could have seen it easily become a parody of itself. But while there are no leg warmers here, it was evident that some of the dancer’s stories just don’t have the same impact today that they might have had back in 1975.
The show still maintains the original elements of the bare stage and large mirrors that appear from time-to-time and for those of us that have seen A Chorus Line a number of times on stage there is definitely something comforting here.
Given the minimal set, lighting becomes increasingly important, and while I know touring companies can be up against a lot of obstacles as they move from venue to venue, it was disappointing to see some questionable follow spot work on opening night. Fortunately though, when the stationery lights are used the lighting was at times simply dazzling, especially as the cast gathers back in their line at the end of most of the stories/numbers with a golden hue that forecasts the finale.
There is a reason A Chorus Line endures – it has memorable music, it has some really great choreography and while not all the company are as equally strong as triple threats, and despite the lesser impact of some of the stories today, there is a heart and freshness that is still relevant for today.
Tickets on sale now at all Ticketmaster outlets, online at http://www.ticketmaster.ca or by calling 604-280-4444. Group orders for 10 tickets or more may be placed by calling 1-800-889-8457.