ONE THRILLING COMBINATION ‘A CHORUS LINE’ REMAINS THE BEST DANCE CALL THEATRE EXPERIENCE
‘WHO AM I ANYWAY.. AM I MY ROLE? THE DANCE LINE IS ALIVE. SEE THE MUSICAL THAT SAVED BROADWAY. DIRECTOR BILL ENGLISH PRESENTS A DANCE SINGULAR SENSATION
Review by Vince Mediaa
The audition line is thick and welcomes dancers to audition for the dance musical that changed Broadway Theatre back in the 70’s. A CHORUS LINE is the first real time reality musical that still carries its punch reviving Broadway back the 70’s and now doing the same in the post covid era. The San Francisco Playhouse ends their celebrated 20th season with a Broadway classic. A CHORUS LINE is now on the SFPH stage through September 9th and features a sharp cast of dancers and singers. SFPH Artistic Director Bill English says CL is a revolution; “not just revitalizing New York but forever changing musical theatre”. English also directed this cast of 27 and says “After fifty years CL is still relevant. Many of the issues that were rising into our public consciousness in the early seventies still resonate today.”
A CHORUS LINE is an open call for 17 dancers. As an excited audience we get to view their auditions live for just about two hours until the final dancers are chosen. The “kids” (a word not used any longer) run through a grueling dance audition but a personally invasive psychological interview with the director Zach played by the exhilarating Keith Pinto. He becomes their shrink, parent and coach, a “Voice of God”. Based on interviews with actual dancers, “A CHORUS LINE" original concept by Michael Bennett and his team fused the dreams and intensely personal confessions of real actors fighting for this dance gig as they sing the banner song “I Hope I Get It’
Originally conceived, directed, and choreographed by Michael Bennett, with music by Marvin Hamlisch. Director, English, brings out the vulnerability in these young dancers, a rawness, and realism in a Tony honored musical that is now 48 years old. Beginning on an empty stage with a bare brick back wall and a white tape line stretching from wing to wing across the front, this “cattle-call” audition first eliminates dancers through fast-paced dance sequences. The company opens the auditions with “I Hope I Get It” the perfect vibe to feel the passion of these dancers to win a slot in this “unnamed show”. They all are desperate to impress this director and "get it".
The life experiences of these 17 dancers range from the former drag queen Paul, movingly portrayed by local favorite Alex Rodriguez, who wants only love and acceptance from his parents when his true self is revealed. Sheila played by the marvelous Alison Ewing, at age 30, the oldest dancer, the stage has left her bitter, and sarcastic. Cassie, Zach’s former lover and very talented Broadway performer, is given another chance to dance. Played by Nicole Helfer, who is truly a standout, a beautiful dancer. Helfer also choreographed this cast, it has been a lifelong dream for her to perform in this classic show. Keith Pinto also doubled tasks as associate Choreographer along side Clint Calimlim.
The dancers also include; Val played by the flawless Melissa Wolfklian the girl next door who has bought herself the physical attributes nature granted her; she sings “Dance Ten; Looks Three”, and the classic line “tits and ass”. Don, father of two played by the terrific Zach Padlo who brings that edge to the company number “Mother”. The exceptional Samantha Rose Cardenas plays Diana and sings “What I Did For Love” a passionate ballad that talks to the CHORUS LINE. These 17 dancers might as well be 1,000 who wait at cattle calls in NY, LA and Chicago. They cut a swath across people of color, ages, orientations and attitudes, yet James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante’s deserving Pulitzer-winning script somehow manages to draw a portrait of the universal dreamer.
The powerhouse Chachi Delgado plays Richie and sings “Gimme The Ball’ as he realizes at seventeen even with a college scholarship, he had no idea what he wanted to be. Most are long past the age when dreams like theirs are ever fulfilled, but at today’s audition, ever closer to their last, they will follow every directive and endure every humiliation. Only this time, a voyeur will publicly draw out their innermost fears, past failures and demons. The Hamlisch/Kleban ballads include “At the Ballet” and “What I Did for Love,” it doesn’t really matter what your professional field is audiences relate to their stories. Cassie performs “The Music and the Mirror” showing off her dance skills and proving the rumor that some precision dancers struggle as a singer.
“A CHORUS LINE” is for anyone who’s had a dream. It’s a snapshot of its time, but it transcends time, and the world of dance. The ultimate paradox of life in the chorus is that you must have individual skills that will make you stand out in an audition — but once chosen, you must blend into an indistinguishable group and not upstage the star. To the untrained eye, any of these dancers is good enough for Broadway. But some of them will never catch a break, and that’s the whole cold, cruel point of the biz. While most will, and should, bow to this deserving cast brings all their passion to the line. This lines reputation is built on decades of precision movement down to every intentional misstep and impeccable line spacing including each dancer's body language just standing still.
As the two hour audition comes to an end the signature song and dance “One,” is a showstopper. As the back wall opens to reveal Individual members of the seven piece band under the direction of Dave Dobrusky who mixes each solo with heart and perfection. The set design by Heather Kenton and English included the mirror panels and always remine simple till the smash ending dance. Costume Designer Abra Berman paints the players in 70’ undertones and the sizzling gold top hats and canes for the spectacular close “One”.. “A CHORUS LINE” remains most relevant for how many varied and believable characters it lets us know in such a short period of time. Everyone is real and we meet the players in real time. This is a character study as precise in word as the dancing is in step. This is the sure hit of our 2023 summer, selling fast so book your seats to this experience and live audition and bring your own hat and cane.
SAN FRANCISCO PLAYHOUSE PRESENTS
A CHORUS LINE
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante
Conceived and Originally Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett
Directed by Bill English,
Music Direction by Dave Dobrusky,
Choreography by Nicole Helfer and Keith Pinto
Closes September 9, 2023
Two hours Minutes no intermission
SAN FRANCISCO PLAYHOUSE 450 Post St., S.F.
Production Photography by Jessica Palopoli: