Up until last night, I thought A Chorus Line was nothing more than a musical about an audition. I now realize I was completely wrong. Because of the brilliant writing, strong vocalists, and interesting acting choices, Rockville Musical Theatre’s production proved to be an extremely enjoyable experience.
Directed by Anya Randall Nebel and musically directed by John Michael d’Haviland, A Chorus Line explores the back-stories behind seventeen dancers/performers at an audition. Throughout the production, Zach, (the assertive Jivon Jackson) the head of the audition, asks them questions about their pasts, and how they found their love for dance. This sort of plot has the potential to be a little slow and boring, but instead, I found the Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante to be intriguing. Each character has his or her own reason for turning to the arts in the search for acceptance and self-discovery. The stories provide the musical with substance, such as Paul San Marco’s (PJ Mitchell) heartbreaking tale of finding himself through dancing at a drag club, and Cassie Ferguson’s (Alicia Sweeney) belief that she failed to meet her dream of becoming a famous dancer.
William T. Fleming’s set is simple, but works well for the production, and matches the typical dance studio audition-type atmosphere. The stage is empty except for a row of rotating mirrors in the back, and a white line on the floor. The simplicity allowed me to focus on the characters’ stories, but I also appreciated how Fleming incorporated different uses of the mirrors throughout the production. Each mirror has three sides – one black, one gold, and one reflective surface. While the characters were reminiscing, the mirrors were often turned to the black side, which helped create an eerier feel.
I was disappointed to find the dancing in this production a little weak. That being said, I did enjoy certain aspects of Vincent Musgrave’s choreography choices. For example, the choreography in the opening number, “I Hope I Get It” was all over the place. Many of the dancers seemed to be off in their timing and did not follow through in their movements. However, that number was also supposed to be the beginnings of the audition process. It would be unrealistic for every dancer to be perfect in the opening try-outs, and as a result, I found that I liked Musgrave’s choice. The choreography added amusement to the number and made it more enjoyable to watch.
The orchestra was superb playing Marvin Hamlisch’s Tony Award-winning score but sound and mic problems caused some drowning out of some of the vocals, which was a shame because this was such a top-notch orchestra.
There were some standout singers that caught my attention. Mitchell’s solo at the end of “Opening: I Hope I Get It” was clear and strong, and I was disappointed to find that he did not have anymore major solos later in the production. Sweeney’s rendition of “The Music and the Mirror” was sweet, and I felt that she successfully conveyed her regret towards her career throughout the piece. Catherine Oh (Kristine Urich) and Mark Hamberger (Alan DeLuca) gave hilarious performances through “Sing.” I found I could not stop laughing at Hamberger’s attempts to fill in the notes Oh’s character could not reach. Out of all of the vocalists however, Kimberly Murphy’s Diana Morales wowed me the most. “Nothing” is rather simple musically, but Murphy belted out each note with a sense of ease and strength that left me speechless. Just when I thought she could not impress me anymore with her talent, she provided another fantastic performance with her rendition of “What I Did For Love.”
The acting overall was stronger than the vocals for many of the performers. Jimmy Biernatowski as Bobby Mills III conveyed his wonderful physical acting abilities through the song “…And…” Other performers were singing during his part, so he shared his story through over-the-top gestures, which I found to be extremely amusing. Though Mitchell did not sing again, I found his acting abilities to be just as great as his voice. I felt for him when he shared his monologue about how he dropped out of school to find his talent and in the end, gained a sense of approval from his parents. I believed his heartbreaking story and was surprised to find I felt a connection to his character when he cried in the end. Sweeney’s story was just as real as Mitchell’s. When she spoke of her failure as a dancer and her need for a new start, I found I wanted to help her and hear more.
Anya Randall Nebel has directed an enjoyable production and based on the audience’s applause at the end of the show, Rockville Musical Theatre’s production is a major success. It’s the ‘one’ to see!
A Chorus Line plays through Sunday July 22, 2012 at Rockville Musical Theatre – at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call (240) 314-8690.
Meet the cast of RMT’s A Chorus Line.