Dates and Venue 3 – 8 November 2009, Tues –Sat 8pm; Sunday 7.30pm (Sat and Sun matinees 2pm) | The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts
Music Marvin Hamlisch Lyrics Edward Kleban Direction Bob Avian Set Design Robin Wagner Costume Design Theoni V. Aldrrdge Lighting Design Tharon Musser Music Direction John C. O'Neill
Reviewer John Jane
This tour production of A Chorus Line is a cogent, single act, well paced piece of musical theatre. Its highly original premise still stands up well against later models of Broadway fare. The show uses the fascinating double paradox of success in failure and the synergy derived from teamwork as a better option than when working toward a goal individually.
Twenty-four seasoned dancers take to a bare stage in front of a mirrored wall for an audition under the watchful eye of Zach (Michael Gruber), the dance director. At the top of the show, I Hope I Get it sung by the entire company, illustrates more than anything the common mindset of the dancers to make the cut to the last eight (four men and four women). Each dancer knows that their selection in an established show could propel their career forward.
As Zach and his assistant Larry (Brandon Tyler) put the ambitious dancers through their paces, some are really good, some mediocre and some get hopelessly lost in the elaborate choreography. The first cut whittles down the auditioners to seventeen as they then step forward in line, holding their eight-by-ten inch, black and white head shots in front of them. This group become the core performers throughout the show as they display not only their talent as dancers but undergo a rigorous analysis as they expose their lives in soul-bearing soliloquies to the director unseen at the back of the theatre.
A Chorus Line is the definitive ensemble theatre piece with every performer accepting equal responsibility for the show’s success. Though perhaps predictably, female performers are more conspicuous than their male counterparts. Julie Kotarides, who deputises for Rebecca Riker as Puerto-Rican dancer Diana Morales shows that an understudy should be as good as the starter, leading the company in What I Did for Love.
Emily Fletcher as Sheila, the auburn-hair, statuesque beauty with attitude to spare and Mindy Dougherty as Val in her tongue-in-cheek rendition of Dance: ten; Looks; three (popularly known as the Tits ‘n Ass song) show up with exuberant and mildly erotic performances.
Robyn Hurder who has arguably more acting to do than any of her fellow cast members is tolerably neurotic as Cassie. Though, she nails her solo effort, The Music and the Mirror with heart-warming poignancy.
The women don’t get all the good songs. Clyde Alves shows off remarkable athleticism combining song and dance in his showpiece number, I Can Do That – and he certainly could.
Marvin Hamlisch’s music and Edward Kleban’s lyrics can stand alone as listenable songs, and yet provide a vital element to the story’s narrative. Theoni Aldredge’s clothing, particularly the flared pants, is evincive of the time and place of a Broadway theatre in the mid-seventies.
The magic of the show is of course, the dance. Bob Avian’s choreography, re-staged by Baayork Lee, one of Chorus Line’s original cast members roars out its own theme of survival and opportunism.
A Chorus Line is certainly a feel-good kind of show. Undoubtedly expounding that rejection is indeed a part of life, and sometimes dreams do come true - but sometimes not. Dedication to one’s art isn’t always enough.
An Interview with Liza Domingo
Interviewer John Jane
Californian Liza B. Domingo, who plays the ageless Connie Wong in the current production of A Chorus Line, is already a veteran of Broadway style musicals, but she has also found the time to earn a bachelors’ degree in Business Management with a Minor in Dance from California State University.
When she spoke to me from her hotel the day after the show opened its run at Calgary’s Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium she first talked about how excited she is to be part of Chorus Line and delighted at the enthusiastic response from audiences across Canada.
Liza comes from a musical family who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines before she was born. “Growing up, my parents encouraged me to learn ballet, jazz dance and tap.” “I learnt how to play piano and I can read music.” She answered when asked if she could also play a musical instrument.
When asked what has been the highlight of her dancing career so far, she was pretty emphatic about her role in A Chorus Line. “Playing Connie, one of the show’s main characters gives me the opportunity to dance, sing and act.” Liza also enthused about the support and camaraderie she draws from the production’s cast and crew. “It was great to meet Baayork Lee; it was she who created the (semi-autobiographical) role of Connie.” Liza revealed to me that all Chorus Line’s characters are, to some extent based on real people.
A Chorus Line is about a group of dancers auditioning for a Broadway musical. So what happens when a performer auditions for a show about ‘the ones who make it and the ones who don’t’? “It’s very similar to auditioning for any other show, except for an interview process when we were expected to display our real personalities.” Liza did have some prior knowledge of the show; she had been part of the ensemble in an earlier production and had watched the Richard Attenborough’s 1985 film version (the one that featured Mrs. Wayne Gretzky).
Liza mentioned that she is looking forward to Vancouver again. She performed as a member of the ensemble and understudied for Kim in Miss Saigon at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in the summer of 2003 (then listed as Liza Bugarin).
So, what’s next for Ms Domingo? “After the tour, I’ll be going back to California and perhaps hopefully land some television and film work; or even try for another role in musical theatre.”
The day after A Chorus Line opens at Vancouver’s ‘The Centre’, Liza Domingo celebrates her thirtieth birthday – Happy Birthday Liza!
© 2009 John Jane