‘A Chorus Line’ at Riverside Theatre, photo courtesy Riverside Theatre
By PAM HARBAUGH
VERO BEACH — There’s more than one singular sensation in Riverside Theatre’s thrilling production of “A Chorus Line.”
The professional theater takes that heady combination of Michael Bennett’s choreography and Marvin Hamlisch’s music and to that adds a cast brimming with talent and production values polished to a high sheen. The result is the realization that although “A Chorus Line” is 40 years old, it’s got legs up to here.
The storyline is a powerful one: It concerns the physical and emotional toll inflicted on professional dancers auditioning for a handful of jobs in a musical. But we go to see “A Chorus Line” for one thing, the dancing. And that’s what you get. From the first “… 5, 6, 7, 8” the show gathers momentum and does not stop until the house lights come on.
In the process, we get to know the dancers’ compelling personal stories — all human, and all believable. We end up caring about each one.
The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical, which has book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante and lyrics by Edward Kleban, began as actual recorded sessions during which a group of real life dancers shared their audition experiences. One of those dancers was Mitzi Hamilton, who danced in the Broadway and London productions and now serves as director/choreographer of Riverside’s production.
While Ms. Hamilton faithfully recreates Mr. Bennett’s iconic choreography, she also elicits the heart and soul to the story – these dancers do what they do for love. We see their passion for dance and understand the sense of family they have with one another.
Dayna Tietzen wows as Cassie, the Broadway star who has to set aside her sparkle and disappear into a chorus line. Christine Cornish Smith makes a perfect soul-weary Sheila, a dancer who’s seen it all before.
Emily Grace Kersey is pert and funny as Kristine, the dancer who can’t sing. Natalie Kaye Clater sings beautifully the haunting song “Nothing” in which she recalls her emotional emptiness in acting class. She also leads the ensemble in the heart-tugging song “What I Did for Love.”
Tom Burklund, who performed in “A Chorus Line” in the Broadway revival, is Zach, the director who urges the dancers to reveal personal truths. Jordan Fife Hunt brings tears in his monologue about beginning his show business career in a drag show.
Music director Ken Clifton delivers every bit of powerful Hamlisch pizzazz you expect with “A Chorus Line” and leads an excellent 11-piece orchestra.
Scenic designer James Dardenne works with lighting designer Andrew F. Griffin to deliver a great “wow moment” during the curtain call, which is the most electrifying number, if you will, in the entire show.
Before and after curtain of this show, a ghost light illuminates Riverside’s stage. A theater superstition holds that the ghost light appeases the souls who have trod the stage before. If there are two such spirits who should be happy right now, it would be those of Marvin Hamlisch and Michael Bennett. What they did for love continues to thrill.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “A Chorus Line” runs Jan. 5 to 24 at Riverside Theatre, 3250 Riverside Park Drive., Vero Beach. Tickets begin at $35. Call 772-231-6990 or visit RiversideTheatre.com. Or, click onto the ad on the right:
You can read another Brevard Culture story which will tell you more about the director, Mitzi Hamilton, by clicking here.
This review will also run on the website FloridaTheaterOnStage.com. Be sure to click onto that website to find reviews of other shows in South Florida and in New York City.