Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Liar
A Chorus Line presents a real challenge for a community theater, one only partially met by Manatee Players. Because it is all about dancers, dance is its driving force. This region recently saw another musical driven by dance, West Side Story, in an almost perfect production. Unfortunately, this production isn't able to reach the same heights. Dance is often the weakest element in community theater, but director/choreographer Thomas DeWayne Barrett has put together a cast with some very strong dancing credits. Much of the individual dancing is quite strong, but he has not been able to blend them into a real ensemble.
The cast reads like a who's who of area community theater leading performers. Kathryn Parks revisits the role of Cassie, having performed it a few years back at another theater. I think she has grown into the role, more age appropriate than she probably was before. She has terrific poise (she also models), stage presence, and a fabulous voice to deliver "The Music and the Mirror." Sarah Cassidy as Maggie, Danae DeShazer as Sheila, and Eliza Engle as Bebe make "At the Ballet" a complete showstopper, especially when Victor Mongillo's trumpet obbligato lets rip. Phillip Morehouse gives a moving reading of Paul's monologue, an emotional highlight of the piece. Keely Karalis as Val sings "Dance Ten, Looks Three" well; all she needs is just a bit more sass. Zach Sutton as Al and Rachel Nix as Kristine are both excellent; it is not easy for Al to be on pitch when his partner is not. Melissa Ingrisano as Diana Morales gets two of the show's strongest numbers, "Nothing" and "What I Did for Love," and she does a fine job delivering both. There are other fine performances by Logan Junkins as Mike, Tahj Malik as Richie, and Joseph Rebella as the Don understudy. The entire cast does great service to the musical and dramatic elements of the piece. Thomas Dewayne Barrett portrays Zach the director and demonstrates crisp ensemble dancing.
Musical direction by G. Frank Meekins is solid, the score blazing with energy as it must. The sets by Caleb Carrier is minimal, except for the revolving mirrors at the rear, based on the original production, and costumes by Becky Evans capture the haphazard attire of backstage well. Lighting by Ryan Mueller is one of the strongest elements; the dance sequences that are played in semi-darkness are some of the most effective.
A Chorus Line has proven to be almost impossible to reproduce with the same level of excitement it had during its initial Broadway run when there multiple touring versions, all with almost the same energy as the Broadway version. Manatee Players is doing a creditable job with this production, giving younger audiences a chance to see this classic musical.
Manatee Players presents A Chorus Line through January 24, 2016, at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts, 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton; 941-748-0111, manateeplayers.com.
Directed and Choreographed by Thomas Dewayne Barrett