Tuesday, January 14, 2020

One Singular Sensation Gives Welk Village Theatre A Leg Up As It Opens It’s Thirty Ninth Season.


In 1975 the Marvin Hamlisch (music), Edward Kleban (lyrics), James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante (book) and Michael Bennett (conceived and originally directed and choreographed) musical hit, "A Chorus Line” hit Broadway and never looked back.

It received 12 Tony Award nominations, winning for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score culminating with nine in all. The show ran for 6,137 performances and became the fourth longest running Broadway show ever.

Any show that has that sustainability deserves a second, third and however many productions it takes to look back at what is says and to whom it’s speaking.
Lauren Louis as Diana
For all the dancers, choreographers, wannabe dancers and musical theatre lovers this is tribute you, old new and in between. It more than deserves the outing Welk Village Theatre in Escondido, under the deft direction of Hector Guerrero (who also choreographs), gave to it on opening night.

Every now and then, it’s good to see it again just because it is one of the classic dance shows of Broadway’s past (by doing the math, it’s 45years old), not to mention it is a damn solid and good show and it gives dancers the complete floor on what goes into the process of becoming a dancer. It also gives the audience a chance to perhaps understand how much hard work is involved in making something look so easy.

 Over the years, there have been at least five "A Chorus Line" productions that have either passed through on touring shows or were home grown. The variables are in the casting of the show. The original themes are the same. The production opens backstage in a generic theatre where twenty-four dancers are vying for and auditioning to fill eight spots for a new musical about to be launched.
Jeffrey Scott Parsons Mike with cast
In charge of these auditions in this show is the director, Zach, (Jeffrey Ricca) who barks out orders to this chorus of those wannabe chosen. He does this by relentlessly probing, questioning and eliminating while all the while getting under their collective skins by having each one give a brief background of themselves as the “I Hope I Get It” mantra is chanted in the background. This is the heart of “A Chorus Line”.

One by one Zach prods, encourages and yells out orders from some place in the back of the ‘theatre’ for information from each with the usual suspects and personalities standing out over and above the others.

Lauren Louis as Diana, the brash Latina, who speaks of her toughness with one of her numbers, “Nothing” while relating a touchy, feely acting class she took in school on the one hand, and on the other hand later on in the show, belting out “What I Did For Love” with more emotional tremor than what was expected of her given her tough veneer.

Mike (Jeffrey Scott Parsons) is the youngest of twelve who tells how he used to mimic his sister at her dance class by learning her steps in “I Can Do That”).
Trevor Rex, Mikayla Agrella and Natalie Nucci
Sheila, a very strong Natalie Nucci is tough as nails and somewhat cynical. She’s been around the block several times. In her number, “At The Ballet”, she reminisces about her parents and her dancing lessons and her dysfunctional family life. 

Mikayla Agrella is Cassie, Zach’s old flame and ex live- in girlfriend. She’s hoping to make a comeback and thinks she has a bit of an edge on stage. She does have a moment (‘after all is said and done and you walked out on me’) Ms. Argella shows her talent as she dances her solo number that lasts at six or seven minutes if not longer, “The Music and the Mirror”.

Several of the boys speak of their homosexuality but it’s Paul (Anthony Michael Vacio) who is given the juicy part as he recalls the pain of his early childhood, his removal from Catholic School when he confesses that he is gay, his dancing in drag after he leaves school and his parents recognition of him as a young man. That monologue opens the floodgates for the audience. It’s a heartbreaker of a story but one that no doubt plays out across the spectrum.

Holly Echsner as Val with cast
Holly Echsner is adorable and fiesty as Val, the skinny kid with no chest no behind to speak of but a great dancer none the less.  She ends up doing bit of body reconstruction and sings about it in another show stopper “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three” or (“Tits and Ass” showing off her now big breasts.)

Donnie Gersonde is Bobby, the tallest dancer on the line but don’t underestimate; he can kick those babies out as far as the eye can see. He is also the funkiest of the contestants as he relates his escapades growing up.

Fisher Kaake is Larry, Zach’s serious assistant who helps run the auditions and Trevor Rex is Greg the Jewish gay man who struts around like a prima donna and talks about his first encounter with a woman when it’s his turn to talk.

All in all the dancing is terrific, the musical numbers are timeless, the voices good to just OK but the passion of the dancers, on a scale of one to ten, hits a ten. 
Devon Hunt is Richie
Musical director, (All the music is pre- recorded. I remember a time when there was live music coming from the ‘pit’) Randi Ellen Rudolph Jethwa, Patrick Hoyny’s sound, Jennifer Edwards (whose mom Adrianne has been with the theatre for over thirty years) designed the lighting, Rory Brown designed the set, (an open stage) with mirrors in the background), but it’s Janet Pitchers quintessential costumes with the glittery gold and white matching jump suits and top hats that catches the eye in the reflection of the mirrors that brings the audience to its feet.

All in all that’s what they do for L O V E …and it shows.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through March 22nd
Organization: Welk Resort Theatre
Phone: 1888.802.SHOW
Production Type: Musical
Where: 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido, CA92026
Ticket Prices: $59.00 ($59.00 with pre show dinner)
Web: sandiegotickets.welkresorts.com
Photo: Ken Jacques

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