Tuesday, June 13, 2006

*A Chorus Line* review

at CdA Summer Theatre through June 24

They’re college students, teachers and struggling actors (which ones aren’t?). They’re theater gypsies who live out of suitcases between and during shows. They migrate to Coeur d’Alene every summer, subsisting in dorms and spare bedrooms just for a chance to shine for a few moments onstage. For the 19 actors in *A Chorus Line* at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre (through June 24), the roles reflect the lifestyle to an unusual degree. You just know that the opening number, “I Hope I Get It,” crystallizes the emotions these kids had during the auditions for this very show.

*A Chorus Line* feels dated at times, and the recitations of birth dates that Mr. Bossy Director demands during tryouts for these aspiring dancers only reinforces that feeling. These fictional dancers were all born in the 1940s and ‘50s; if they were alive today, they’d be in late middle age, well past their dancing prime. That is, if they were alive at all — Chorus Line’s pre-AIDS vintage only reinforces its bittersweet mood. For example, Michael Bennett (1943-87) — who conceived, choreographed and directed the 1975 premiere of this show — appears in the current *Entertainment Weekly* as one of the much-lamented artists who have died of AIDS in the past quarter-century.

Bennett was a pioneer, and a lot of the inclusiveness (of ethnic minorities and gays) and soul-rending honesty (unhappy childhoods and self-loathing) that has bloated so many *Lifetime* movies is traceable to shows like *A Chorus Line.* Which is not a knock on the show: Bennett’s emotional honesty, willingness to take on taboos and sheer creativity innovated a great show.


The CdA season opener is a show filled with highlights.

Matt Flanders provides the intimidation factor as Zach, that bossy director. You know we’re in the disco era when Judith McGiveney has dressed him in bellbottoms, a tight sweater and flapping shirt collars that have been cleared for take off.

For “At the Ballet,” a trio of actor/dancers — Kelly Kunkel, Cara Cooley and Jessica Ann Low — embody their own vision of what an ideal dance world (or any ideal world) might resemble. Their song and their aspirations merge so well that we start asking Yeats’ question: How can we tell the dancer from the dance?

As Val, Karyn McNay provides a solo dance of a somewhat, ahem, earthier nature. In “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” McNay steps up to the challenge of announcing how proud she is of her new tits and ass. McNay fairly glides across the stage, flaunting her boobs and wiggling her butt in a comic/sad display of just how far some people will go to refashion themselves for the sake of fulfilling some guy’s idle fantasy. During McNay’s gutsy performance, we’re thinking naked bodies, but what we’re witnessing is naked desire.


The finale provides a glittering gold and white dream of dancers strutting their stuff, transcendent at the pinnacle of their dream. They fade out soon enough — and the routine was already old-fashioned, even when they conceived it — but still, it’s a fleeting vision of hope. They won’t forget, can’t regret what they did for love. We’d all like to be big stars, but Wasileski’s *A Chorus Line* has the smarts to show us all the sweat and disappointment that precedes our brief moments in the spotlight.

For the rest of this review — including comments on the play's shock value, Ross Cornell as Paul San Marco and Megan Bayha as Cassie Ferguson — see the June 15 issue of *The Inlander.*


At June 25, 2006 8:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've finally gotten a chance to see the show, and enjoyed it, but would like to point out to "Bobo" that the lyrics for A Chorus Line weren't written by Marvin Hamlisch, but by Ed Kleban. (Incidentally the posthumous subject of his own musical: A Class Act, and a great songwriter in his own.) Just an fyi.

At June 26, 2006 8:09 AM , Blogger Bobo the Theater Ho said...

Thanks, Screwtape. I had looked that up to confirm and, under deadline pressure, simply got composer and lyricist mixed up. Dumb.


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