Under the direction of Brenda Didier and with show-stopping choreography from Christopher Chase Carter, Porchlight’s A CHORUS LINE captures the emotional heart at the center of this classic musical and has plenty of pizzazz. While the production definitely has a 1970s flare and feel (especially with those fabulous leotards selected by costume designer Bob Kuhn), the emotions are raw and fresh. A CHORUS LINE cannot succeed without heart-wrenching emotional intensity as it relates the story of 17 performers aspiring to be cast in the chorus of an unnamed Broadway show. With music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante, A CHORUS LINE also includes some of the most iconic Broadway tunes, including “One” and “What I Did For Love.”
Porchlight brilliantly pays homage to A CHORUS LINE’S storied iconography—could you really do a production without the actors lining up with their headshots in front of their faces at the end of the opening number, “I Hope I Get It?” But many of the performances here made me feel like I was really discovering the piece anew. Porchlight’s ensemble really lives the passions and the fears of these dancers who are just hoping to make it onto a Broadway stage.
Of course, all of the 17 performers who make it back the first round of auditions must win over the director Zach. Though we mostly hear him through a god mic, this is a critical role to keep A CHORUS LINE moving. Porchlight has easily found that center in Richard Strimer, who nails Zach’s combination of no-nonsense directorial vision and searing, heartfelt curiosity to learn more about each and every one of the individuals in front of him.
As Zach invites the performers to share information about their backstories in a no-holds barred enviornment, some of them are ready to give it right back to him. Erica Evans, in particular, is captivating as the fierce and whip-smart Sheila. Evans captures Sheila’s quick-witted energy. and she’s also extremely light on her feet. She also dives into the character’s vulnerable interior in “At The Ballet” (performed alongside Liz Conway as Bebe and Aalon Smith as Maggie). Though her character is more soft-spoken, Taylor Lane has a magnetic presence as the cheerful and frazzled Judy. While all the performers deliver Carter’s choreography with precision (or lack thereof when specifically called upon to do so), Lane is one of the most captivating dancers onstage; you can’t help but be drawn to her in the ensemble dance numbers. Lane also conveys Judy’s sweet and puzzled nature without making the role a caricature.
Natalie Welch finds similar success as Val. Welch has to sing one of the most iconic and comedic numbers in the show “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three.” Val leans into the humor and isn’t afraid to shy away from the fact that plastic surgery changed her prospects as a performer, but Welch also shows us the emotional cost of being in a business where looks often seem to matter more than talent.
In a quieter moment, Alejandro Fonseca does fine work with Paul’s lengthy, moving monologue as he discusses coming to terms with both his sexuality and his gender identity. While Fonseca doesn’t have a flashy solo number, he makes this monologue as powerful as anything else on the stage.
In perhaps one of the most famous roles of the show, Laura Savage does fierce work as determined dancer and Zach’s former paramour, Cassie. Savage makes “The Music and the Mirror” a powerhouse moment, both vocally and with her precise and beautiful solo dance moment.
Of course, A CHORUS LINE above all demonstrates that these performers are willing to put up with the degradations and the hardships of show business because they love their art and what they do above all. Though her character arc as written seems a little shaky, Adrienne Velasco-Storrs captures all that love and pain as Diana Morales with her solo in “What I Did For Love.” It’s a mesmerizing performance, with all those related emotions laid bare for the audience to experience. I’ve never felt that this number resonated for me more than with Velasco-Storrs’ take on it.
While A CHORUS LINE is so much about illuminating what makes each and every aspiring actor on that stage unique, it’s always thrilling to see them come together at the end. The diegetic number “One” isn’t only referring to the unseen star of the musical, but also to these actors coming together as one ensemble. The concluding moment is every bit as dazzling as I could hope for it to be in this show. It’s breathtaking, like so many other moments in this CHORUS LINE. Whether you’re a long-time fan of A CHORUS LINE or experiencing this musical for the first time, Porchlight’s production—like all of the hopeful performers in it—deserves to be seen.
Porchlight Music Theatre’s A CHORUS LINE runs through May 31 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 North Dearborn. Tickets are $39-$66. Visit PorchlightMusicTheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Michael Courier
Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com