Left: Selective members of the cast and Right: Renee DeWeese as Cassie in A Chorus Line at Contra Costa Musical Theatre at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek.

CHORUS LINE Originall conceived an d choreographed and directed by Michael Bennett. Book by James Kirkwood & Nicholas Dante. Music by Edward Kleban. Co-choreographed by Bob Avian. Contra Costa Musical Theatre,| PO Box 4446, Walnut Creek CA 94596. Phone: 925.210.0268 or ccmt@ccmt.org. October 22 – November 20, 2010.


One may wonder if the Bay Area is ready for another run of A Chorus Line and there is a bit of trepidation about seeing a local produced staging. In the case of the Contra Costa Musical Theatre (CCMT) production at the Lesher Theater in Walnut Creek the answer is an unqualified “Yes” as indicated by the applause punctuating almost every number. Along with great ensemble numbers, the individual performers and live orchestra generate sparks one remembers from the professional touring groups that played in San Francisco. This A Chorus Line is a smash hit and surely, you will desire to see it again.

It was 35 years ago when A Chorus Line transferred to Broadway winning nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Along with the Tony Award for Best Musical, Score and Book, it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award finally closing in 1990 after 6,137 performances. The CCMT wisely maintains the original choreography, staging, and all the cast are excellent dancers and most are great singers. The individual performers project enough charisma to satisfy our nostalgic yearnings and because there are many thrills throughout the two hours, without intermission as we expectantly await the glittering finale with the cast discarding rehearsal clothes, donning spangled gold costumes, dancing up a storm before the elegant mirrors as the sing they toe tapping song “One.”

On the bare stage of a Broadway theatre, director/choreographer Zach (fine performance from Joel Roster) is holding auditions where 17 “gypsies” (dancers) complete for eight spots. The initial 38 ensemble is weaned to 17 and are put through their paces with the “five, six, seven, eight” tempo beating in their ears before the plaintive “I Hope I Get It.” Inexplicably Zach wants to know who they are and he interviews each about their backgrounds. The unfolding of their stories expresses their individual deep needs with the refrain “I Need this Job” being repeated as they have misgivings about baring their past. First up is Mike (charming Chris Olson) with “I Can Do That” as he tells of replacing his sister in dancing school at age five.

As Zach continues down the line, a trio of the girls Shelia (Katie Pogue), Bebe (Emily Garcia) Maggie(Catherine Williamson) express the desires engendered “At the Ballet.” Attempt at broad humor does fizzle with “Sing” with Kristine (Ariel Ford) and Al (Evan Bommer) but a quick shift to an ensemble number picks up the pace and we are back on track when young Mark (Ben Bogen) tells his hilarious story with the cast dancing in the background to the strains of “And” as various members share memories morphing into “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love." Mario Rizzo as the openly gay Greg has the audience’s complete attention with his perfect gestures, articulation and stage presence. He is a tough act to follow but Melinda Meeng as Diana is up to it with her plaintive recollection of her terrible high school acting class "Nothing.”

By this time we are ready for a show stopper and Nicole Helfner as Val gives us one with marvelous “Dance 10; Looks 3”, better known as “Tits and Asses.” Beautiful, statuesque Renee DeWeese who has previously performed the role in CCMT’s 2000 production of the show plays the pivotal role of Cassie. Her superb dancing enthralls the audience in her solo number “The Music and the Mirror” that expresses her desire to return to the chorus line. The “The Tap Combination” introduces the marvelous song “One” when groups of four or six strut their stuff. A standout job is turned in by Alex Rodriquez as Paul San Marco, as a Puerto Rican former drag star, and your heart breaks when he twists his knee during the tap sequences, is carried off stage and the auditions end.

As we learn more about the gypsies the more we appreciate the most endearing song from this show, “What I Did For Love” and you really believe their desires and the hardships they endure. I hope that if it has not already been done, someone will continue their stories because you truly can empathize with all of them.

If you have not seen A Chorus Line before, this is without exaggeration a “must see.” To those who have enjoyed it before, do so again. You will be thrilled and appreciative of the quality of CCMT’s 50th anniversary season don’t hesitate to see it again . . . and again.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.TheatreWorldInternetMagazine.com