Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Another asset of the production is that it really emphasizes the humanity in the show, with each dancer onstage coming across as an individual. If there are some minor sags and missteps along the way, they are quickly forgotten through the overall power of the musical itself.
It is not stated clearly in the program, but it seems that some of the original Michael Bennett and Bob Avian choreography (or, at least, the style of it) has been reproduced here (particularly the finale), with some interesting ideas by Darlene Zoller thrown into the mix to fine effect. This combination ends up working very well, creating an empathy between audience and actors, which is aided by their close proximity.
Alex Polzun makes a strong impression performing "I Can Do That" (complete with a couple of amazing flips) and Andee Buccheri adds a lot of sass in her rendition of "Dance Ten, Looks Three." And it is very moving to watch Tracey Mellon, Kayla Starr Bryan, and especially Sarah Kozlow perform the touching "At the Ballet" together. Tracey Mellon portrays the sharp character of Sheila and manages to get all the laughs with her wry line readings (a feat that doesn't always happen in every production of A Chorus Line).
Also standing out are Ronnie Bowman, Jr. as Richie, bringing a big voice to the show, and Bobbi Barricella, a strong Diana Morales, with her two big numbers going over magnificently. Of course, no discussion of A Chorus Line is complete without mentioning the actress who plays Cassie, perhaps the largest part in the show. At the performance I attended, the understudy Anna Marie Russell went on and she performed quite well, acquitting herself nicely through her acting and fine singing and sparkling considerably in Cassie's dance solo, "The Music and the Mirror." Russell also executed all the group choreography superbly, with the entire cast truly dancing up a storm.
Unfortunately, the relationship between Cassie and the character of director/choreographer Zach never quite gels, with some curious staging of their scenes together performed way upstage and obscured by the line of dancers. Still, Eric S. Robertson is pretty great as Zach, which brings up only one question: why does he not don a gold costume at the "One" finale and get a bow? The choice to not have this character join the rest of the cast at the conclusion robs Robertson of the recognition he richly deserves.
Still, Playhouse on Park's production of A Chorus Line gets most everything else right, with the score by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban sounding great and the book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante extremely well performed (particularly by the excellent Tino Ardiente as Paul, who delivers his character's moving monologue superbly). Also, the show looks terrific, with fine work by scenic designer Christopher Hoyt, costume designer Lisa Steier, and Christopher Bell with a striking lighting design. And then there are the dancers, who, both individually and as group make such a strong impression. It is certainly a credit to Playhouse on Park's staging of A Chorus Line that, in addition to the big Broadway moments, one leaves the show caring very deeply about every character onstage.
A Chorus Line continues performances at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through July 31, 2016. For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call the box office at 860-523-5900.