Iconic ‘Chorus Line’ showing its age
HEDY WEISS Theater Criticemail@example.com January 24, 2012 2:28PM
"A Chorus Line" is on the bill at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora through Feb. 5.
‘A CHORUS LINE’
◆ Through Feb. 5
◆ Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena, Aurora
◆ Tickets, $34.90-$46.90
◆ (630) 896-6666;
Updated: January 24, 2012 5:42PM
By the late 1960s, it was all about baring your body, as, for example, in “Hair.” But by 1975, when “A Chorus Line” arrived on Broadway, it had become all about baring your “soul.” The confessional mode — which plagues us in one form or another until today — seized hold of the popular imagination with a vengeance, often revealing more dirty laundry than genuine emotional truth.
For dance lovers and show biz fanatics, the magnetic pull of “A Chorus Line” might well have been the show’s realistic audition sequences, and its insights into the grueling ritual of Broadway “gypsies” who arrive at open “cattle call” auditions desperate for a prized job in a new musical. But what has long been the turnoff factor for me with “A Chorus Line” is its group therapy session dynamic.
The questions I invariably ask myself as I’ve watched this musical over the years is this: Do you really have to be psychoanalyzed (spewing tales of adolescent misery, dysfunctional families, coming out, plastic surgery), before you join a high-kicking chorus line? Isn’t it enough to have a ferocious work ethic, good legs, strong technique, and the ability to pick up choreography at (pardon the pun) the drop of a hat?
That same question came to mind again as I watched the revival of this ever-popular show now at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre — the third of four musicals inaugurating this historic venue’s Broadway Series.
Originally conceived, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, with a score by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban and a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, there is very little room for diverging from that iconic original. The mirrors, and the music, and the breathless ballet and jazz combinations — and yes, that classic final chorus line — cannot be tampered with much. They are built-in elements.
Although director-choreographer Mitzi Hamilton (who was associated with both the New York and London productions of the original) has wisely toned down the snarkiness of the all-powerful, largely in-the-shadows director, Zach (played here with appealing naturalism by Luis Perez, a former Joffrey Ballet principal dancer), the show conforms to the basic parameters. The dancers come in a somewhat greater range of sizes and shapes than usual, but when they put on their sparkly jackets for the final number they generate a remarkable uniformity.
Jessica Lee Goldyn, who appeared in the show’s Broadway revival, is sensational as Cassie, the former girlfriend of Zach, who knows she is a chorus dancer not a star, and begs to return to “the line.” Curvy, with gorgeous blonde hair that has a life of its own, she turns up the overall heat of this production in “The Music and the Dance,” her big monologue and multi-reflection dance number.
Also notable are Tommy Bracco (as the acrobatic Mike); Kevin Curtis (a real firecracker as Richie, who should unquestionably compete for the lead in the upcoming Black Ensemble Theater show about James Brown); and Nicole Hren (a hummingbird of a girl who plays Val, of “tits and ass” fame). Pia Hamilton is a cute, brisk Connie, the Chinese girl who will never be tall enough. And as Diana, the Latino student with bad school memories, Pegah Kadkhodaian gives a solid valedictory speech about dancing for the sheer love of it.
The Paramount stage, stripped to bare brick walls and work lights, has a Broadway theater feel. And the total blackout after the grand finale is a fine reminder that show business is all about illusion.