A Chorus Line: Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 7/3/10

7 07 2010

My usual difficulty with the Morgan-Wixson Theatre – the use of canned music – somehow fades into the background during their most recent production, A Chorus Line. Perhaps a dance musical makes the prerecorded tracks less troublesome – but more likely, the talent and enthusiasm of this troupe of auditioning actors and dancers keeps the show continually dynamic.

Based on tape-recorded interviews by original director/choreographer Michael Bennett, this 1975 concept musical gives voice to the often undifferentiated Broadway gypsies, the mechanically-synced background to the “one singular sensations” of the musical theater stage. The Morgan-Wixson boasts an undeniably young, but remarkably talented and mature ensemble – and each individual has his chance to shine. Mike (Erik Bradley) kicks the show off with a light-hearted “I Can Do That,” pitch-perfect and accompanied by a suave Gene Kelly combination. While my focus is typically drawn to musical numbers, Eric de Anda holds the audience captive with his monologue as the young gay man Paul in the second act. The intimate house heightens his uncomfortable grappling with identity, as well as the vulnerability of the audition process.

After all, the auditioning dancers are forced into these confessionals by the director on the (appropriately-named) God mic at the back of the house: Zach (Michael Heimos), who offers an impressive bit of voice acting. While Zach should have been cast younger to match his ex Cassie (Ashley Matthews), or Cassie cast older to match Zach, both offer outstanding performances – particularly evident in Cassie’s head-flipping solo, “Music and the Mirror.”

Despite these star moments, the musical is perhaps even stronger when agglomerating these dancers’ experiences into ensemble numbers, reflective of a genuine theatrical community. Sheila, Bebe, and Maggie (Elizabeth Hunter, Brittany Sindicich, and Michelle Akeley) recall how they used to project themselves into the beauty of dance in “At the Ballet,” accompanied by a choreographed dreamscape. When the only black auditionee Richie (Jacob Nixon) takes center stage to recall his basketball glory days, the stage erupts in disco lights, vibrant dancing, and genuine fun – blurring the lines between characters and performers.

As expressed in the talkback, A Chorus Line resonates with performers on a much more personal level than most shows; many would drop everything to be a part of such a truthful production. Directed, music directed, and costume designed by Anne Gesling, the Morgan-Wixson’s production pays undeniable tribute to the original Broadway production with book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and lyrics by Edward Kleban. Costumes come as close as possible to the original ensemble’s now-iconic attire, while Hector Guerrero’s choreography – beautifully interwoven with Gesling’s direction – draws directly on Michael Bennett’s movement vocabulary while opening into more innovative dances to showcase this particular cast’s unique talents and abilities. The Morgan-Wixson truly deserves the attention and success that this production has been receiving so far, and I hope this energy and enthusiasm can be sustained for next year’s season!

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3 responses

7 07 2010
Julian McCleary

GREAT REVIEW!!!! Thank YOU!

11 07 2010
Jen Fingal

A Chorus Line is one of my most favorite shows ever. I’m SO glad you saw a good production of it!!!

15 07 2010
A CHORUS LINE: 100% – Sweet : Bitter Lemons

[…] SWEET As expressed in the talkback, A Chorus Line resonates with performers on a much more personal level than most shows; many would drop everything to be a part of such a truthful production. Directed, music directed, and costume designed by Anne Gesling, the Morgan-Wixson’s production pays undeniable tribute to the original Broadway production with book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and lyrics by Edward Kleban. Costumes come as close as possible to the original ensemble’s now-iconic attire, while Hector Guerrero’s choreography – beautifully interwoven with Gesling’s direction – draws directly on Michael Bennett’s movement vocabulary while opening into more innovative dances to showcase this particular cast’s unique talents and abilities. The Morgan-Wixson truly deserves the attention and success that this production has been receiving so far, and I hope this energy and enthusiasm can be sustained for next year’s season! Sarah Taylor Ellis – Compositions on Theatre […]

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