There’s a certain school of thinking that says that higher ticket prices equate to a better show. My experiences with touring professional musicals would suggest that isn’t always the case. I’ve often found them to be uneven and not always worth the high price of admission.
Luckily, A Chorus Line is more hit than miss. Following 17 dancers auditioning for roles in the chorus line of a Broadway musical, The Tony award-winning show sets high expectations, billing itself as the best musical ever.
The calibre of acting was largely topnotch and the dancing spectacular. The sheer athleticism and grace of the cast was on full display in this beautifully choreographed production.
A Chorus Line works best when the audience finds all of the competing dancers to be sympathetic and likeable. Not all of the actors were able to pull this off. On opening night, Julie Kotarides subbed in for Rebecca Riker in the role of Diana. Kotarides was serviceable in the part, but was nothing to write home about. Her singing voice was pretty, but her acting felt one-dimensional and left me indifferent.
Anthony Wayne’s Richie pulsed with a manic energy which translated well in his dancing. His delivery, however, seemed to be a jivey throwback to 70’s style media portrayals of African-Americans that bordered perilously close to being offensive.
Maggie as played by Hollie Howard was tepid and forgettable. Her vocals were a bit more memorable, but not in a good way. Maggie’s high notes in “At the Ballet” were painful to hear and took away from what is otherwise a beautiful song.
The negatives were largely outshone by the myriad of positive performances. Bethany Moore was note-perfect and extremely likeable as the awkward Judy Turner. Brandon Tyler’s Larry was a dervish in dance shoes as he moved with reckless abandon across the stage. Emily Fletcher smouldered as the sexually aggressive Sheila, commanding attention with a raise of her eyebrows or a toss of her hair.
A Chorus Line was truly groundbreaking when it debuted in the mid-70s, but many parts of it have not aged well. Mindy Dougherty as the artificially-enhanced Val made the most of the once risqué number “Dance: 10; Looks: Three.” But modern audiences have long since become accustomed to ‘tits and ass,’ and the song barely registers today.
I had high hopes for Joey Dudding who played Paul. One of the emotional highlights in the show for me is Paul’s monologue. Properly delivered, it deftly rises to an emotional crescendo. Dudding raced through it and arriving at the end seemed to cry almost as an afterthought, barely phoning it in.
A Chorus Line features several gay characters as revealed through songs or monologues. The sexualities of many other male characters are left undefined. As such, these are usually played straight, for lack of a better word. It was nice to see, in this production, to see many other of the dancers not all played as hyper-masculine heterosexuals.
This line is a solid, strong production that is worth the ticket price for the dancing alone. That plus some inspired acting and vocal performances make A Chorus Line a must-see.
A Chorus Line, presented by Broadway Across Canada, plays at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, 777 Homer Street from Nov 3-8, 2009. Tickets are available online now or by phone at 604-280-4444.