I have to admit I went into Signature Theatre's production of A Chorus Line with a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement for a new production of my absolutely all-time favorite show, and dread for a new production of my absolutely all-time favorite show. Much has been made of the fact that director Matthew Gardiner and choreographer Denis Jones would not be using Michael Bennett's staging or choreography (gulp!) - not even the iconic "line pose" (double gulp)!
What was not "radically different" was Matthew Gardiner's direction. No, it was definitely your standard production in that regard. I was relieved/thrilled that the company always ended up each number back in the "pose." To be fair, a few characters don't exactly match the Broadway line, but not by much. What is different, though, is the uneven pacing, particularly the post-injury, pre-"What I Did For Love" dialogue about life after dancing, which ground the show to halt. Interesting, then, that the pacing of a typical production trouble spot - the "And..." scene, had a vibrancy that I really enjoyed.
|The Company - "I Hope I Get It"|
Denis Jones, a dancer/choreographer whose work I've enjoyed over the years, was also less radical than advertised - think Michael Bennett lite, Michael Bennett adjacent. The most significant changes were in "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen," which included some fun teen awkwardness, and far less formation driven tableaux. And the iconic "One" was also pretty standard, substituting the "wedge" and "circle trot" choreography with lots of lines and kicks. Both numbers were really quite fine - not disappointing at all - but were likely changed due to the demands limited space more than any revolutionary re-vision of the dances.
|Kayla Pecchioni as Maggie|
Two actors stood out in all the right ways in characters that don't generally get much attention: Ben Gunderson's utterly charming Bobby, and understudy (!) Zeke Edmonds' sweetly protective Al. Both gave great acting performances, and are fantastic dancers. Finally, Matthew Risch was a commanding Zach, and his chemistry with both his "assistant" (Joshua Buscher as Larry) and his ex (Emily Tyra as Cassie) was not only palpable and on point, but also added a sometimes missing dramatic tension. Good stuff!
|Emily Tyra (Cassie) and Matthew Risch (Zach)|
Signature Theatre has been down this path before, hyping their Miss Saigon as a "you've never seen anything like it, immersive experience," and not delivering that, but rather a very good production of a classic work. A Chorus Line is a similar case - not as "new" as it thinks it is, but definitely a solid production. It's worth seeing.
📸: C. Mueller
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