A CHORUS LINE earns rave reviews from Kitsap Sun’s Michael Moore. Read the full review below.
LOCAL THEATER: BPA richly captures the ‘singular sensation’ of ‘A Chorus Line’
Hard work shows in a production that’s long on casting, courage and commitment
Read more: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2013/may/11/local-theater-bpa-richly-captures-the-singular-a/#ixzz2T22hdBeh
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BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — I’ll get around in short order to congratulating All Concerned for their on- and off-stage contributions to the opening-night performance of Bainbridge Performing Arts’ production of “A Chorus Line.”
But first, I’ve got to tip my hat to them all just for making it through the rehearsals.
The amount of preparation required by director Stephen Fogell and co-director—choreographer Joanna Hardie’s BPA company is … well, we already used the word “staggering” once, didn’t we? It’s a load and a half. What’s amazing is that the whole bunch of them weren’t staggering out of the customary “hell week” and into the first weekend of performances.
Despite its straightforward and spartan trappings, “A Chorus Line” is a hot-blooded bitch for a community theater group to even think about attacking. The choreography is staggering, the songs compositionally complex and vocally demanding, and the whole concept — musical theater stripped of its lavish sets, lush costumes and other accoutrements, in favor of a parade of human backstory and a whole lot of pedal-to-the-metal song and dance — challenging, to say the least.
That’s what BPA bunch — some of them trained dancers, some not so much — managed on opening night, and that’s probably the most impressive thing on a long list of impressive things about this production.
You know the players, who portray a gathering of dancers in a make-or-break audition for a new Broadway production, had to be tired, and bruised, and sore, and quite possibly under the weather, even before they hit the stage for opening night. But you wouldn’t have known it from the energy and trumped-up smiles (they are, after all, in an audition) and downright outstanding dance acumen to which they treated the opening-night full house.
That’s what show biz is all about: You work yourself ragged on the journey, and have to look like a million bucks at the destination.
I was excited when I saw that Witt — who’s been oustanding in previous BPA productions of “The Producers” and “Chicago” — was cast as Cassie, and she more than lived up to expectations, singing and dancing the daylights out of the show-stopping “The Music and the Mirror,” and deftly trading crackling dialogue with Paul Bryan’s Zach — who, as it turns out, is a lot more to her than just a prospective director.
And they don’t just dance. Backed by musical director Chris Kolbegger’s tight, brassy baker’s dozen set up behind the stage, the vocal sound is full — so much so that when the whole cast is cranked up, you’d swear Kolbegger’s got a few extra singers stashed back there somewhere, too. Individually, they start at good and get better. And amid all the crooning and hoofing, the show is acted well enough that the audience comes away caring about all of them.
The show’s hardest-hitting number is dependent on a triple-threat performance — sing, dance, emote — and BPA gets a dandy from Rebekah Witt as Cassie, perhaps the most desperate of those auditioning for spots in the chorus.
But the cast are all good. Port Townsend’s Jennifer Ewing was a potty-mouthed charmer as Val; her “Dance Ten; Looks Three” was a highlight. Diane Peterson’s Sheila was all attitude on the outside, all insecurity on the inside, and she handled some of the show’s trickier lyrics with aplomb. Bremerton’s Xavier Euzarraga was both funny and empathetic in his part of “Hello Twelve,” and Evan Louis Thomas was winning in an all-too-brief turn in “I Can Do That.” DeSean Halley and Ryan O’Donnell, both BPA regulars. were their usual strong selves. Hardie, adding the role of Zach’s assistant, Lorraine, to her duties, danced every step as if the world depended on it. Elizabeth Grant (Maggie) added another strong singing voice, and Elizabeth Racely maxed out the matter-of-fact emotion of “What I Did For Love.”
And if I didn’t mention someone by name, it doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate and admire their work. I did. All of them.
The lights (by Mark Sell) and costumes (by Barbara Klingberg, who, incidentally, worked on the original Broadway production of “A Chorus Line”) are, by necessity, pretty stark, but effective nonetheless. And several touches Fogell added to the staging of several numbers — particularly with a half-dozen full-length mirrors/backdrops — were inspired. The sound (by Matt Hadlock), with the big orchestra in full vigor and a score of remote microphones in play, was remarkable.
Audiences will remember “A Chorus Line” for its energy, its humanity and the way it faithfully captured the spirit of a show that’s about, well, spirit. I hope Fogell and All Concerned are able to remember it that way, too, and not for all the stubbed toes, falls and collisions, hard knocks and endless, exhaustive labor that got them to opening night.
Just like the troopers they play, they’re all special.