MILLBURN, NJ - A rousing production of “A Chorus Line” is a terrific choice for the start of the 2012-13 season at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn.
As Artistic Director Mark Hoebee has said, “We like to pick shows with lush scores that have a message.” The Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning play is also a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, who recently died. Hamlisch wrote the music, with lyrics by Edward Kleban under the choreography and direction of Michael Bennett.
“What I Did for Love” is probably one of the most haunting ballads around, the plaintive “I Really Need This Job" and the sensational “One” (or “Every Little Step”) are also memorable. But some of the music falls flat, including “At the Ballet” and “Sing,” a somewhat tedious duet between a husband and wife team.
Martin Harvey as Zach, the choreographer who is deciding who will be in the four and four teams and who will be dismissed, keeps the pace going. He draws out the "gypsies" to share their stories of pain and determination. During the play, the house lights frequently come up when Zach is interviewing the dancers.
Jessica Lee Goldyn is Cassie, who once had a relationship with Zach and now just wants a job in the chorus. They bring an essential spark to mostly a stage full of strangers. Rachel Rak as Sheila is a standout with her tough, flirtatious exterior, covering her insecurities with bravado. Also moving is J. Manuel Santos as Paul, a confused young man with an outstanding voice. Zach draws him out, but the dancer is later injured during auditions. Kevin Curtis as Richie skims across the stage in an almost weightless manner.
Some of the lines are familiar, but still draw a laugh, such as "committing suicide in Buffalo is redundant." The use of mirrors, especially in the finale, adds to the sparkling "singular sensation." The hint of tacky glitter in the shimmering finale costumes of top hat, bow ties and tails adds its own quiet desperation to these talented performers who will give their all.
Director Mitzi Hamilton has a long association with “A Chorus Line,” having developed a workshop production in 1974 with a couple of other people. Joseph Papp joined forces with Bennett and by 1975 the show was on Broadway.
There’s a certain nostalgia connected with “A Chorus Line” and, judging from last Sunday’s matinee audience, the Paper Mill is packing them in. The musical runs 2 hours and 15 minutes with no intermission. Although a live orchestra couldn’t be seen, musical direction by John O’Neill added plenty of spice.
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