Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
A Chorus Line
A Chorus Line follows a group of seventeen dancers who make it to the next-to-last cut to be cast in the chorus of a Broadway musical. Director Zach is satisfied with each as a dancer, but he needs to narrow the group down to eight. He asks them to tell something meaningful about themselves in order to provide some additional insight into their personalities. The dancers tell stories of artistic struggles, broken family relationships, sexual awakening, and much more along the way. One of the dancers, Cassie, is Zach's ex-lover, which makes the choice even more complicated.
As conceived by Michael Bennett, the musical was based on a set of taped interviews and discussions with real Broadway dancers about their experiences. James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante turned the recordings of these sessions into the book for A Chorus Line. The story has dramatic bite and a proper balance of tension and comedy, as well as heartbreak and hope. This is a decidedly adult show, but one which provides insight into the challenges and sacrifices of making it in show business, and contains varied and realistically drawn characters. The score by Marvin Hamlisch (music) and Edward Kleban (lyrics) is a classic, and includes well-known such songs as "One," "What I Did for Love," "At the Ballet," and "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three." "I Hope I Get It" is an ideal opening number for the show, propelling the action immediately with energy and accurately setting the atmosphere of the show to come.
Playhouse director Blake Robison keeps the traditional tone and general staging of the show, but adds enough unique touches to make the material feel new and timely. Alex Sanchez has re-created many of Michael Bennett and Bob Avian's original, iconic dances with great skill and care, but also provides apt new choreography as well. The new staging and choreography in "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love" is especially noteworthy. Andrew Smithson leads a great-sounding 12-piece orchestra.
A Chorus Line is truly an ensemble show, and this production includes a number of Broadway vets. The dancing by the cast is sharp, cohesive, and executed with full energy. While a few performers were a bit pitchy at the performance attended, they are collectively strong singers as well. Local favorite Drew Lachey displays excellent timing and presence as Zach. Courtney Arango is impressive as Diana Morales, showing off superb singing in two of the show's more well-known numbers. As Cassie, Shiloh Goodin captures the world weariness of a down-on-her-luck former Broadway dancer trying to restart her career, and dances the powerhouse "The Music and the Mirror" with well-suited desperation and intensity. Other standouts include Diego Guevara (Paul), Francesca Granell (Bebe), Musa Hitomi (Connie), and Jonathan Duvelson (Richie).
Playhouse's new theater differs greatly from the previous one–the thrust configuration is gone, replaced by the more typical proscenium performance space. This production of A Chorus Line looks different from most versions of the show. Scenic designer Timothy Mackabee has skillfully created the look of a theatre workshop studio rather than the normal "on stage" setting and it works well. The lighting by Jaymi Lee Smith is varied and effective. Kathleen Geldard's costumes are attractive and original, but a few of the outfits for female characters feel too modern for a show that takes place in the 1970s.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has much to celebrate with the debut of their new theater, and the well-loved and highly awarded A Chorus Line is a great choice to open the new the space. Talented performers and a fresh visual presentation of the material make this a production worth seeing for local theatergoers.
A Chorus Line runs through April 15, 2023, at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt Adams Cir, Cincinnati OH. For tickets and information, please visit www.cincyplay.com.