Friday, August 20, 2021

A New Look at A Seasoned Show: “A Chorus Line” At Moonlight Stage Productions Giving The Company a Three of Three ratings of 10’s

In 1975 the Marvin Hamlisch (music), Edward Kleban (lyrics), James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante (book) and Michael Bennett (conceived and originally directed and choreographed) the musical 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. 

The last of the last ‘musical within a musical, “A Chorus Line” was produced at Welk Village Theatre where it was abruptly halted due to the Pandemic. It’s ironic that one of the more recognizable tunes is “What I Did For Love” sung by Diana (Milan Magana) and company that just about says it all when it comes from the life’s work of everyone in show business. 

During intermission, I had a chance to chat with Producing Artistic Director Steve Glaudini who had tears in his eyes as he impressed upon me that a dancer’s life is about love, rejection and what is done for the love of dancing, being in a chorus line, auditioning knowing you may or may not make the cut, “(Oh God I need This Job”), possibly injuring yourself and laying bare your soul for the chance of the dance. The Pandemic changed all that and in the process left many behind in its wake. But the show goes on.

Every now and then, it’s good to see it again through new eyes (I’ve seen it at least three or four times over the years) just because it is one of the quintessential dance shows of Broadway’s past (by doing the math, it’s 46 years old), not to mention it is a damn solid and good show, it gives dancers the complete floor ( it starts out with 26 dancers and is whittled down to 8) on what goes into the process of becoming a dancer, and it gives the audience a chance to perhaps, understand how much hard work is involved in making something look so easy. 

Xavier J. Bush as Richie

What the show did not have at Welk was live music with Dr.Randi Rudolp and her 16 member orchestra, a sprawling stage setup outdoors (with spot on lighting by Jennifer by Jennifer Edwards). What Welk did have and continues to a have at the Vista location is director/choreographer Hector Guerrero (using the original dances) and about ten of the cast from Welk. Some of the cast and crew have different roles, but not to worry, each one past and present are excellent. 

The premise of the show is that Zach is conducting interviews for chorus line dancers being interviewed. We also get to see behind the scenes of what it looks like as dancers to go through the audition process before even getting close to the finished product. From there the finished product and in this case, the Big Production Number and finale, “One” (that singular sensation) that always brings the house down). 

Natalie Nucci as Sheila

In charge of these auditions in this show is the director, Zach (Tyler Matthew Burk) 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 gives 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 information from each with the usual suspects and personalities standing out over and above the others. Jessica Naimy 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 (Michael Jeffrey Scott Parsons) 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”. 

Sheila (a terrific Natalie Nucci) is tough as nails and has 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.  The beautiful Jennifer Knox) is Cassie, Zach’s old flame and ex live in girlfriend, have a bit of an on stage why are you here moment ‘after all is said and done and you walked out on me’? Jennifer 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 (Steven Ruvalcaba)) 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. Ruvalcaba is a perfect Paul. Danny Gersonde is the flaming Bobby. He sashays his stuff for all to see. 

Jennifer Knox as Cassie

Holly Echsner is on target 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).

 Xavier J. Bush (Richie) is the tallest dancer I’ve seen but don’t underestimate; he can kick those babies out as far as the eye can see.  

Samuel Shea 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 are all excellent and the passion of the dancers, on a scale of one to ten, hits a ten.  

Moonlight’s last show “Beauty and the Beast” was definitely child friendly. “A Chorus Line” is adult oriented. It is well worth to trip to Vista. 

Steven Ruvalcaba as Paul

According to fun facts on “Broadway Buzz”: director/choreographer Bennett thought up “A Chorus Line” from scratch but the famous interviews was based-hours and hours of tape of dancers sharing their life’s stories-was actually started by veteran Broadway dancers Michon Peacock and Tony Stevens in January 1974’ efore that first interview session, four of the dancers—Sammy Williams, Thommie Walsh, Priscilla Lopez and Kelly Bishop—were so nervous about the event that they met up at Walsh’s house and got stoned.

It was Neil Simon's then-wife Marsha Mason who called up Bennett and suggested (strongly) that he change the ending  and put Cassie into the show (she was not originally) to be less of a downer.

 Clive Barnes "The conservative word for “A Chorus Line” might be tremendous, or perhaps terrific."

I second the motion. 

Photo: Ken Jacques

Where: Moonlight Amphitheatre, Brengle Park, 1250 Vale Terrace drive, Vista

Phone 760 724 2100

Runs though Sept. 4th.

Tickets: $17.00 t0 $59.00

Online: moonlightstage company


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