‘A Chorus Line’ at Olney Theatre Center by Amanda Gunther

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One! Singular sensation is dancing its way into your heart as Olney Theatre Center presents the sensational Tony Award-Winning Best Musical A Chorus Line, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and a book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante. Directed and Choreographed by Stephen Nachamie with Musical Direction provided by Ross Scott Rawlings, this stunning tale of life in the Broadway audition line will touch the hearts of every audience member with its moving stories, phenomenal dance routines, and powerful characters who live each moment fully on the stage. A brilliant production of this highly prized classic with a brilliant cast of extremely talented performers — this is the one!

Tony Thomas (Richie) and the cast of 'A Chorus Line.' Photo by Stan Barouh.
Tony Thomas (Richie) and the cast of ‘A Chorus Line.’ Photo by Stan Barouh.

Director Stephen Nachamie does a stellar job recreating the show’s original choreography; honing in on those intense moments of perfect unison where every dancer is exactly the same in perfect synchronization not only with each other but with the rhythm of the dance and flow of the music. The full-bodied intensity that goes along with these routines keeps the audience captivated from the beginning of the show with its simplistic beginning right through the razzle-dazzle Broadway finish, which leaves a standing ovation for a lone ghost light upon the stage at the show’s finish. Nachamie’s ability to integrate a living pulse into the routines is astonishing; making them more than just dances that are being executed by performers, but living, breathing moments of motion that truly captivate and enthrall all who watch each moment unfold.

Straight out the gate the ensemble is ablaze with a physical ferocity that only grows as the production continues. The sheer tenacity of the dance work is matched with the strength of the vocal integrity; each song well paired with a balance between singing and dancing that would enchant any fan of Broadway musicals. And above all Nachamie’s direction showcases the heart of the story; real life at its rawest and edgiest; the desperation of those trying to survive by living the dream. This all encompassing work is visual brilliance, aural perfection and an all round marvelous show that simply has to be seen to be believed.

The energy with which the ensemble performs is nothing short of indefatigable; even during solo song moments there is often complex silent routines occurring in the background. Numbers like “I Hope I Get It” and “One” involve such intense choreography that it takes the audience’s breath away just to watch it. They never miss a beat, and they never deflate, even in the face of the never-ending uphill battle that is the audition process.

Nachamie builds this show in layers, not only revealing the tough reality of a Broadway audition but stripping away the glamorous notion of a life in the business. There is a jaw-dropping moment of revelation that is crafted with such perfection, such heart-stopping emotions; when Zach is screaming at Cassie about the life she wants, does she really want the life of a chorus girl? And the ensemble comes marching forward like drones, striped of their individuality, of their life while still trying to pour their hearts into their physical motions— that moment is a grotesquely beautiful and yet harrowing moment that makes every effort gone into the production beyond worth it.

Aside from the dancing, the vocal sounds coming from the ensemble as a whole, under the direction of Ross Scott Rawlings, are both powerful and emotive. One of the biggest numbers in the production, “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” is a culmination of unified sounds, solo lines, and tireless vocal energy that really snaps the audience to attention while simultaneously exposing more and more of the individual stories of each of the characters.

Zach (Carl Randolph) while seldom seen on the stage, but heard clearly throughout the production, imbues his vocalizations with harsh ferocity. Randolph portrays the casting director figure with terrifying authority and rigid strictures that would make any dancer, even the most professional, nervous. But he is not without his softer side, showcased later in the show; a gentle evolution of humanity from within.

One of the heart-breaking stories told in a rare moment of speaking instead of singing comes from Paul (Bryan Knowlton). His deeply moving tale of how he came to be is so emotionally invested as he tells it that you cannot help but shed a tear, not only for his struggles but for the inner beauty he finally releases. Tempering the heavy with airy lighthearted stories is Al (Sam Edgerly) and Kristine (Heidi L. Kershaw) The pair “sing” a comical duet, “Sing!” where Edgerly beautifully carries the notes and Kershaw warbles intentionally off-key. The duet is handled efficiently with a swift delivery of handed-off lines and makes for a cute moment in the story which is otherwise fraught with the struggles of real life.

Harmony in triplicate comes during “At The Ballet” where three songbirds blend voices and pure adoration to express their love of dance and solace found in the art form during their dark childhoods. Maggie (Jamie Kelton) Bebe (Angela Millin) and Shelia (Colleen Hayes) bring this song to its stunning conclusion, a dulcet and gentle number filled with hope. Hayes molds her character into a frigid ice queen, exuding a sultry air of entitlement while toeing the line of bawdy flirtations. Her character’s confidence is a full blown dose of arrogance and is perfectly fitting for a girl who has made it as far as she has. But her solo leading into “At The Ballet” unearths the deep insecure truths of her character; a stunning revelation that truly makes her dynamic.

Using their bodies to express themselves are Richie (Tony Thomas) Bobby (Parker Drown) and Mike (Kyle Schliefer). Thomas has extreme dance moves, using acrobatics and super high jumps to separate himself from the others. Drown, featured heavily in “And” falls into a rare form of comedic pantomime that carries in darklight while the ensemble and soloists sing around him. Schliefer uses his solo “I Can Do That” to truly strut his stuff. Schliefer’s voice glides as easily as his feet do for this number, showcasing his versatility as his energetic side comes out to play.

The cast of Olney Theatre Center's 'A Chorus Line.' Photo by Stan Barouh.
The cast of Olney Theatre Center’s ‘A Chorus Line.’ Photo by Stan Barouh.

If there’s one girl that proves she’s more than just a pair of tits and a nice derrière it’s Val (Jennifer Cordiner). Rolling into “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” with a biting wit, Cordiner owns this number and radiates a polished panache. Her physical and vocal confidence make this number saucy yet satisfying and she really sells the message with a flare of blatant sexuality that would do any Broadway showgirl justice.

With a humble simplicity that shines through her sweet disposition, Cassie (Michelle Aravena) is the girl to watch. There is an urgent desperation in her voice as she feeds every fiber in her being from the very depths of her soul into “The Music and the Mirror.” Radiating in the spotlight as if she were born under it, Aravena packs so much passion into this number that she wins a rousing ovation from the audience. And as if her singing weren’t enough, her solo dance track in this number is superb. Moving with such a heated rhythm flaming through her body she quickly lights a conflagration that’s cause for alarm; almost tantric and possessed by the music as she dances her heart out; a true stunning sensation.

Matching Cassie beat for beat with her enthusiasm and talent is Diana (Jessica Vaccaro). Dancing and holding her own with the best of the dancers on stage, Vaccaro is a force to be reckoned with. She is a compassionate story teller, particularly during “Nothing” her bright voice selling the audience her heart and soul in this number. And when she opens “What I Did For Love” your heart will just melt. A stunning powerhouse voice with perfect intonation and crystal clear projection you could not ask for more.

At the end of the day when it all comes together the razzle dazzle and pizzazz of Olney Theatre Center’s A Chorus Line’s final number “One: Reprise” is everything that you wait the whole show for – a moment of epic proportions that must not at any cost be missed.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with no intermission.

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A Chorus Line plays through September 1, 2013 on the Main Stage at Olney Theatre Center— 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. For tickets, call (301) 924-3400, or purchase them online.