By Oline Cogdill
It’s doubtful any statistics exist to back this up, but probably a week doesn’t go by in which at least one professional, community or student theater somewhere isn’t producing the musical A Chorus Line.
And there is good reason—this Pulitzer Prize-winning musical continues to be fresh and vibrant as the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center’s (LPAC) proves with its first-rate production of A Chorus Line running through Jan. 28. A Chorus Line is the first show in LPAC’s 2024 Broadway season.
Under the steady guidance of director Michael Ursua and the re-staged choreography by Alex Jorth, LPAC’s A Chorus Line thoroughly entertains with solid dancing and poignant talks from this chorus line’s members.
A Chorus Line revolutionized theater when it was launched on Broadway in 1975 with its music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and a book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante. The cast included no major stars to draw in audiences (though the musical did launch the careers of several actors). The stage was bare, except for a mirror in the background that served as a dancing tool.
A Chorus Line eschewed glitzy, eye-popping costumes for T-shirts, leggings, workout clothes. There was no intermission, which, no doubt, cut into the concession profits. Despite these drawbacks, A Chorus Line was a box office and critical hit, earning 12 Tony Award nominations, winning nine, plus the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. At one time, it was the longest running show on Broadway.
The production focuses on 17 unknown Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line that will back up its unseen star. The audition includes lots of dance, of course, as they show their abilities. But the audition takes a different turn when each must explain what shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers.
A Chorus Line also is about careers—doing what you love, even when it doesn’t love you back; in taking that risk of being rejected, of knowing your choice of profession has a shelf life. Yet, this is what you love and you have no choice but to pursue that career, all of which is explained when the cast joins together for the anthem “What I Did for Love.”
Ursua skillfully re-imagines the original concept. The stage is bare except for the scattering of personal bags dancers would bring to an audition, and that vital mirror. The decidedly unglamorous costumes are just how the cast would dress for an audition. And A Chorus Line is performed without an intermission.
He also has assembled a cast of young, energetic dancers/actors. While most have had roles in a variety of South Florida productions, none are among the area’s best-known performers. That is likely to change, thanks to Ursua’s production.
A Chorus Line is definitely an ensemble piece yet was devised so that each person’s memories pack an emotional wallop. The audience connects with each, wishing that everyone could land this role, rooting for those who are picked, sad for those who don’t.
The audience knows how they feel when the company sings “I Hope I Get it.” It takes a toll when one of the most talented dancers injures himself and is out of the running. The audience can hope that he heals quickly and goes on to have a fabulous career.
Standouts include, but are not limited to Stephen Eisenwasser as Mike (“I Can Do That”), Lauren Horgan as Diana (“Nothing”); Anna Cappelli as Val (the hilarious “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three”) and Larry Toyter as Bobby, Desir Dumerjuste as Richie, Cappelli as Val and Alexandra Van Hasselt as Judy teaming up for “And;” followed by Madison Wilcox as Shelia, Nia Bourne as Bebe and Abbey Alder as Maggie remembering “At the Ballet.”
Notably, pain is clear in the monologue when Samuel Colina as Paul recounts an earlier job and the first time his father called him “my son.” Chad Raven as casting director Zach keeps the momentum going.
The standout role in A Chorus Line continues to be Cassie, the uber-talented dancer who years ago left the chorus—and Zach—for a big career that never happened. Now she desperately wants to rejoin the chorus line. This role launched a long career for the original Cassie, Donna McKechnie.
Lauren Cluett delivers an outstanding Cassie, showing why, as Zach says, she doesn’t dance like anyone else and why she needs to dance, explaining in “The Mirror and the Music.”
Compliments also go to lighting design by Will Gibbons-Brown, sound design by Christian Taylor and Ursua who adds music direction to his job titles.
A Chorus Line launches LPAC’s new Broadway series that will include Memphis Feb. 15 to March 3, then Hello, Dolly! April 4 to 21.
On, runs through Jan. 28 at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, 3800 N. 11th Place, Lauderhill (northeast corner of 441 and Sunrise Boulevard), 954-777-2055, www.lpacfl.com. 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; a lunchbox matinee can be arranged Wednesday and Thursday. Running time: two hours with 15-minute intermission. Cost $45 to $65.