Tag Archives: A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line; Broadway Across Canada (Review)

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.

ACL- 10 - The company on the line

The company on the line in the National Tour of A Chorus Line. Photo- Paul Kolnik

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.

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A Chorus Line; Broadway Across Canada (Upcoming Show)

The first stage musical I ever reviewed was a touring version of A Chorus Line back in the 90s.  This November, A Chorus Line returns to Vancouver for a one-week run.

Conceived and originally directed by Michael Bennett, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, A Chorus Line ran for almost 15 years on Broadway and remains one of the longest-running Broadway musicals in history.

The company on the line in the National Tour of A Chorus Line.  Photo- Paul Kolnik

The company on the line in the National Tour of A Chorus Line. Photo- Paul Kolnik

The National tour cast currently features Clyde Alves (Mike), Amos Wolff (Roy), Dena DiGiacinto (Bebe), Liza Domingo (Connie), Mindy Dougherty (Val), Joey Dudding (Paul), Emily Fletcher (Sheila), Michael Gruber(Zach), Derek Hanson (Don), Hollie Howard (Maggie), David Hull (Mark), Jordan Fife Hunt (Frank), Robyn Hurder (Cassie), Julie Kotarides (Vicki), Jessica Latshaw (Kristine), Ian Liberto (Bobby), Sterling Masters (Lois), Stephanie Martignetti (Tricia), Bethany Moore (Judy), Colt Prattes (Al), Rebecca Riker (Diana), Alex Ringler (Greg), Clifton Samuels (Tom), Brandon Tyler (Larry), Anthony Wayne (Richie), J.R. Whittington (Butch) and swing performers Deanna Aguinaga, Venny Carranza, Erica Mansfield and Shane Rhoades.

Broadway Across Canada presents A Chorus Line from Nov 3-8, 2009 at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, 777 Homer Street.  Tickets are available online now or by phone at 604-280-4444.

Songs For A New World (Review)

Sometimes less really is more.  Songs For A New World, presented by Not Another Musical Co-op, is an extremely minimalist production.  It’s a small four-person cast, there is little in the way of a set, and the stories told on stage are often left up to the interpretations of the audience.  That simplicity allows the actors and Jason Robert Brown’s music and lyrics (Parade, The Last Five Years) to soar, and they do.

Although there is no plot, the show is bound together with overarching and entwining themes, and while the actors do not play the same characters throughout the show, they do develop and grow.  The complexities of the music and of the human experience are always at the forefront and make for a captivating experience.

new world

Jennifer Neumann, Jonathan Winsby, Daren Herbert and Alison MacDonald; the cast of Songs For A New World

The cast have all been seen in recent Vancouver productions.  Daren Herbert (Man 1) and Jennifer Neumann (Woman 1) played Richie and Maggie respectively in Royal City’s A Chorus Line in the spring.  Neumann also shared the stage with Alison MacDonald (Woman 2) and Jonathan Winsby (Man 2) in the recent Arts Club smash hit Les Misérables.

Herbert’s softer falsetto contrasts beautifully with Winsby’s powerful baritone and both Neumann and MacDonald are in equally fine form vocally.  Each one has the chance shows off in their solos and yet still come together to complement each other in the many harmonies.

The ever-charismatic Jonathan Winsby demonstrates his prowess as a leading man in both “The World Was Dancing” and “She Cries.”  Jennifer Neumann is fearless yet guarded in “I’m Not Afraid;” then she lets loose in her duet with Winsby, “I’d Give it All For You.”

Alison MacDonald is a bundle of neuroses threatening to jump out of an apartment window in “Just One Step” and then is a fierce and romantically-frustrated Mrs. Claus in “Surabaya Santa.”  Daren Herbert shows off in “Steam Train” and then is a dynamo of raw emotion in “King of the World.”

I find something new in Brown’s score on each and every listen, but my favourite has always been the oft-recorded “Stars and the Moon.”  Alison MacDonald embraces the song with open arms and hits all the right notes, emotionally and musically.

The ubiquitous and multi-talented Sara-Jeanne Hosie co-directs and co-choreographs with Shane Snow.  Their synchronised choreography worked well in “The Steam Train” but in other numbers, was far too distracting.  Brown’s score is piano-centric and the three piece band receives almost as much attention as the actors.  Pianist Sean Bayntun, percussionist Sam Hutchison and bassist Hugh Macdonald make beautiful music together.

Songs For A New World is a work of art and should be contemplated and savoured.  Come for both the amazing talent and the sumptuous score and you won’t be disappointed.

Songs For A New World is playing August 12th – 29th, 2009 at Pacific Theatre, located at 1440 West 12th Avenue. The show runs Wednesday – Saturday at 8pm, with matinees on August 22nd and 29th at 2pm.  Tickets are available online or by calling 604-684-2787.