There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who can dance, and those who wish they could. At least, that’s the way it seems to most of us showbiz types. The Broadway musical “A Chorus Line,” now playing at the wonderfully local Dundalk Community Theatre (DCT), satisfies both groups quite nicely.
…talented cast…if you go see this production of “A Chorus Line,” you’ll see a lot of wonderful…
The ground-breaking musical premiered in New York in 1975, with a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and lyrics by Edward Kleban. The unusual concept of the show grew out of some talk sessions and workshops, headed up by Michael Bennett, the original director/choreographer of the Broadway run. It chronicled a day in the life of a group of dancers auditioning for a Broadway show, telling their stories on such a personal level that it gave many non-performers a first glimpse into what it takes to become a successful dancer. Make no mistake, dancers are not like other people. They channel a specific energy and talent into an outlet that has no choice but to emerge. It’s almost like the dance chooses them, not the other way around.
Watching the opening number, “I Hope I Get It,” I was immediately transported back way more years than…let’s just say ‘a long time ago, shall we? Watching these kids, with a palpable longing and thirst for the spotlight on virtually every face, sets the tone for the rest of the evening.
Under the tutelage of ultra-talented director, John Desmone, this high-stepping company moves like a well-oiled machine, smoothly segueing from one musical sequence or revealing monologue to the next. Musical Director Nathan Scavilla has taught the difficult vocal score to the cast with great success and they sounded amazing. Vocally, they are as good a company of “A Chorus Line” as I’ve seen in ages. Doing his usual bang-up job of sets, lights, and sound, the stalwart and steady steward of all things technical at DCT, Marc Smith has once again risen to the challenge. Despite some hiccups opening night with a scratchy sound board, there are some clever lighting moments and a killer final set. Eva Grove’s costumes hit all the right notes, evoking all the right 70s vibe.
From the moment we hear E. Lee Nichol’s voice as Zach, the imperious director and choreographer, barking out instructions and dance steps to a roomful of mostly terrified, nervous auditioners, we know this guy. A kind of Fosse without the sense of humor, this take on the character never strays into camp, but rather nails the professionalism of most of the best director/choreographers.
Amy Luchey as Cassie, the slightly past her prime former lover of Zach, is a knock out. I’ve seen better dancers in the role (this is the part that made a star out of Donna McKechnie) but seldom have a seen an actress walk that fine line between pathetic desperation and sheer longing as deftly as Miss Luchey. She is a fine dancer with swell pipes, but it’s the acting that makes her a star in my book.
In a company of 17, most of whom have some real moments on stage, it’s not possible to single out each and every one of them, but here are a few highlights. Tyler White moves with all the grace of a young panther, acts with an earnestness that is heartwarming, and is cute as a button. I’ve never known exactly what that phrase means, but the kid has something that draws focus at all the right times. Alex Gubler as Al has a terrific voice and with the cheesy mustache (sorry Alex) and his obvious devotion to his wife, fits the part perfectly. Seth Fallon as Bobby was excellent. Playing a gay guy with a psyche shaped by an indifferent family and need for the spotlight, Fallon nailed every note and is one of the best dancers on the stage. A huge shout out goes to Derek Cooper. It’s rare that you can actually see the effort put into each step by an obvious non-classically trained dancer to get every thing right. Not only an “A for Effort” but an A+ for nailing it with such enthusiasm and determination that I wanted to high-five him after every number. Alyssa Bell had one of the strongest voices on stage, and when she led the cast in, “What I Did For Love,” there was not a dry eye on stage or in the house. That’s great singing—great singing and real theatre.
Others who deserve special mention (in a cast where each is worthy of praise) include Coby Kay Callahan’s aggressively sexy, slightly buzzed Sheila, and Lacey Kraszewski with her excellent version of “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three.”
I have left the true star of the evening for last. In a show that was designed to tell the stories and put a spotlight on the dancers you see in every show and never give a thought about what it took for them to get there, it’s the choreographer who makes that happen. I was once told that the dancers are just the paint and the choreographer is the real artist. I disagree, but Vince Musgrave comes pretty damn close. Tackling this iconic piece, with more than just a nod to the original Bennett choreography, whipping a company of non-professional dancers into a single, laser focused unit, is brilliance at its best.
Full disclosure, I was a professional dancer for about 35 years. I was actually able to perform the role of Bobby years ago and all these years later, I still get all goose-pimply any time I hear someone say, ‘a 5-6-7-8!’ I’ve stood on those New York stages waiting to hear if my number would be called, if I got the part, if I made the grade. Luckily, I was able to experience my share of ‘yesses.’
To see what Vince Musgrave, John Desmone and the rest of the crew and this talented cast do with what I always think of as my own story, was as personal and wonderful as it gets for me. I promise, if you go see this production of “A Chorus Line,” you’ll see a lot of wonderful, too.
Running Time: Approximately two hours 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Adult language.
“A Chorus Line” runs through May 22, 2022 at Dundalk Community Theatre, 7200 Sollers Point Rd., Baltimore, MD 21222. For more information and tickets, please click here.