‘Chorus Line’ gives singular sensation

In most musicals the chorus performers blend together to become a wallpaper of sorts behind the stars. In GW’s “A Chorus Line” the opposite occurs. The chorus members are the leads. Each member of the talented cast is strong and complex, adding a fresh dimension to the show.

“A Chorus Line” provides a glimpse into a Broadway musical audition while entangling the audience in the lives of the hopefuls. It begins with the first cut of the selection process. A simple backdrop of three mirrors and a single masking-tape line on the floor allows the actors to dominate the stage.

The 16 chosen performers are asked by Zach, the director (Austin Myerson), to speak candidly about their pasts. The director, who is mostly heard but not seen seated in the audience, begins the audition detached and secluded but becomes open and responsive as the audition continues. Myerson’s stern attitude, offset by moments of compassion, allows for a convincing portrayal.

With each story, most often told through song and dance, the characters open up to the director and each other. Some of the stories touch on serious issues while others are purely comical. Chris Correia, who played Bobby, an overly-dramatic actor from the suburbs of Buffalo, brought laughter to the crowd with his sharp tongue and effeminate body language. Paul (Brent Stansell) captivated the audience with a riveting monologue discussing his struggle with sexual identity, bringing a more serious tone to the often light-hearted play.

Devin McCalla, who plays Diana, a determined and passionate dancer, is the cast’s strongest singer. Her song “What I Did for Love” re-inspires the actors after they become disillusioned during the lengthy audition process and succeeds in moving the audience as well.

Plastic surgery, adolescence and parental relationships were the themes of other song and dance combinations. The common thread linking the actors is their love of dance and desire to be on stage.

A subplot is the love affair between the director and Cassie (Leigh-Erin Balmer), a former lead dancer returning after a failed attempt at becoming a Hollywood starlet. The two clash over Cassie auditioning for a simple chorus role. The director thinks she is too good for the role, but Cassie is looking to return to the stage in any way possible.

As the play progresses, the audience becomes intimately involved with the characters’ lives, and the actors’ anticipation for the final cut intensifies. With a dramatic twist, the hopefuls are further narrowed. From the 16 auditioners who made the first cut, eight are chosen to be cast members in the final minutes of the play. The disappointment and excitement of the characters are felt both on stage and in the theater seats. The entire cast reappears for a powerful song and dance finale.

The polished performance features a wide variety of songs performed by talented singers. Equally impressive was the choreography, which ranges from break-dancing to ballet. Through consistently strong characterizations, by the end of the show each actor stands out – impressive given the high-quality acting from all cast members.

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