Gerald Schoenfeld Theater
She’s One of a Kind! (Seriously, folks!)
At the Schoenfeld these days, when the lights rise on punctuated shouts of “5, 6, 7, 8” and “pivot step, walk, walk, walk,” the audience leans forward. A sideways glance reveals big smiles and watery eyes. Something familiar yet monumental is in the air.
Despite keeping “A Chorus Line” grounded in its 1975 roots, this revival never feels antique, precious or like a commentary on itself. Thank heavens. Crisp and raw, it radiates yearning and hope all the way to its sequined high-kicking curtain call. The story, a day in the life of several dancers auditioning for a director/choreographer bent on discovering the individuals beneath the leotards and leg warmers, is as simple as it is complex and universal. And, not surprisingly, timeless too.
To paraphrase a lyric, JoyHog’s scorecard is Dance: 10; Looks: 10 (please, they’re all sex on two legs); Acting: 7.5; Singing: 7. But, let’s face the music (and the mirror): “A Chorus Line” is the kind of “event” theatre where an overall impression counts. Quickly forgotten are any questionable voices or occasional off-kilter line readings. The show’s seamless structure propels you right through any quirky misfires. Plus, it’s sweaty and sexy.
Overall, the ensemble is finely cast with razor-precise dancing being its forte. Jason Tam steals the show as Paul, the introverted lad whose parents catch him in a drag review. Paul’s monologue always stands out, but Tam’s sincere delivery is devastating. And boy, can he move. A big qualm is the unfortunate lack of chemistry between the leads. Former star Cassie (Charlotte d’Amboise) and ex-lover/director/choreographer Zach (Michael Berresse) have a big downstage standoff, but even though poor d’Amboise pulls out every stop, she’s ultimately fighting with a give-nothing-back cinder block (that would be Berresse, who’s usually fantastically animated and magnetic). Throughout the show, his monotone questions to the dancers from the back of house ring cold, flat and uninterested. But, the man – quite the vision in a tight retro sweater and pants – executes choreography like he knew how in the womb.
When the Public’s original production stormed theatredom in ’75 (garnering the Pulitzer and a slew of Tonys), “revolutionary!” got thrown around a lot. Luckily, in the hands of members of that premiere team (Michael Bennett’s co-choreographer Bob Avian directs now; the original “Connie” (Baayork Lee) choreographs; all design elements are replicated), we’re fiercely reminded why we love a well-crafted theatrical show full of emotion, movement and song.
They say Chorus Line coined the label “triple threat” (performers who act, sing and dance), but it’s rare nowadays to see a Broadway ensemble showcasing all three talents via a moving book and accessible score – the reasons this show shines. Breakthrough then and refreshingly breathtaking now, “A Chorus Line” is theatre at its most magical. Sprint – don’t walk – to the computer, phone or box office.
Without a doubt, “She’s a special girl.”