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EST Marathon 2008 Series B

A Chorus Line

The legendary musical's national tour is likely to delight both old fans and new audiences.

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Nikki Snelson in A Chorus Line
(© Paul Kolnik)
Nikki Snelson in A Chorus Line
(© Paul Kolnik)
The national tour of A Chorus Line, currently stopping at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, can feel like an instant trip back in time to anyone who saw the original Broadway production, and will likely delight those audience members encountering this seminal show for the first time.

Like the current Broadway revival of the Michael Bennett-Ed Kleban-Marvin Hamlisch tuner, the tour recreates that original 1975 production, thanks to the painstaking work of director Bob Avian, who co-choreographed the original production, and choreographer Baayork Lee, who starred as Connie in the original cast. The dull 1970s street clothes, the bare set enhanced temporarily by revolving mirror backdrops, and that magnificent Bennett choreography are all lovingly reproduced.

Yet, what still makes A Chorus Line so special is that the show expresses the true joys, anguish, passions, and terrors surrounding the gypsies of the stage. Here, they must compete for roles in a new musical by revealing their innermost thoughts to the director, Zach (Michael Gruber). Among the characters we meet are Cassie (Nikki Snelson), an ex-featured player (and Zach's ex-lover), who has returned to the chorus because she realized she doesn't belong in the spotlight; the brash but brittle Sheila (Emily Fletcher), who loves to shock people with her wit; Paul (Kevin Santos), a Puerto Rican boy with a frightful past; Diana Morales (Gabrielle Ruiz), a passionate Latina who has struggled to become an actress; and Val (Natalie Hall), who is quite proud of her cosmetic enhancements.

Snelson is particularly vital during her big solo "Music and the Mirror" and she is quite heartfelt in her quiet moments, as she pleads with Zach to free her from the pedestal prison into which he's locked her. Fletcher is a cutting Sheila, slicing through her victims with each deliciously snide line. Santos is a tender, frail Paul, though his role seems a bit dated, now that drag queens aren't quite the dirty little secret they were 30 years ago. On the down side, Ruiz is a bit overdone as Morales, and her stilted acting almost seems liked a bad Rita Moreno imitation. Worse, Gruber is very dull as Zach, so much so that you may actually beg for Michael Douglas to reprise his role in the disastrous film version instead.

Finally, Hall, who sings the showstopper "Dance 10/Looks 3," often seems like she's wandered into a different musical, essaying her role like a 1930s gangster's moll in a screwball comedy. Still, every time she opened her mouth, the audience couldn't breathe from spontaneous laugher, and her final applause outdrew any other cast member's.


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