By Scott Michaels Special to the News & Record
September 16, 2017
More than four decades after it took New York and Broadway by storm, “A Chorus Line” is alive and well at the Starr Theatre in Greensboro. The Community Theatre of Greensboro’s production may not be Broadway perfection, but it is a heartfelt interpretation with some excellent moments. It is an enjoyable and moving night in the theater with some standout performances.
“A Chorus Line” opened on Broadway in 1972 at the Shubert Theatre in New York after a previous run at the Public Theatre. It was a groundbreaking musical that focused on the lives of Broadway dancers who mostly had no illusions of forthcoming stardom. They were dancers. They danced. They moved from show to show, backing up the stars, for as long as they could. “A Chorus Line” brought their individual stories center stage. This is done in the guise of an audition. The director, Zach, ably portrayed by Latimer Alexander, puts them through more than their dance paces as he presses them to reveal their true selves as he looks for “4 and 4” — guys and girls — who will become his show’s chorus line.
The show will be forever associated with its original director/choreographer Michael Bennett. The book, largely developed from interview sessions with real dancers, is by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban.
I saw the recent revival of “A Chorus Line” in New York a few years back and it left me cold. Broadway has changed and so have the dancers. The perfect bodies and generic veneers of the cast of that production erased what was special about the show. It was a homogenized, presentational production totally lacking in heart. That is far from the case in this local production.
I will be honest, some of the cast are simply not believable as potential Broadway dancers. Once you accept this, then you can enjoy some solid work delivered with a lot of heart. Joshua Hill, as Mike, gets the solo numbers off to an excellent start with “I Can Do That.” Lydia Leggett, as Sheila, makes the most of her crowd-pleasing part and is joined by Samantha Thompson as Bebe and Lindsay Vernon as Maggie to deliver a haunting “At the Ballet.” Ariel LeMerle-Mousset has a big voice and she uses it comically and ironically in “Nothing” and powerfully in the big eleven o’clock number “What I Did for Love.”
Darby Anthony, as Cassie, takes on what is perhaps the most challenging role in the show. Cassie is supposed to be too special for the chorus. It takes a triple threat to play Cassie — singer, dancer and actress. Anthony delivers. Not just in her big number, “The Music and The Mirror,” but throughout the show.
There is no doubt that this cast and crew did this show for love. “A Chorus Line,” particularly during the big ensemble numbers, is almost too big for the space at the Starr Theatre. However, Philip Powell’s direction and Kelsey Walston’s choreography make it work. The lighting by Don Smith and costumes by Stephanie Evans also contribute to making this production succeed.
Scott Michaels is a Greensboro Realtor, writer and lifelong supporter of the arts. Contact him at ScottMichaels100@gmail.com.
This News & Record arts coverage is supported by contributions to ArtsGreensboro’s Arts & Theatre Media Fund.