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A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line

Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante
Directed by Marilyn Izdebski

Kudos to NTC in tackling one of the most critically and commercially successful Broadway shows of all time. Set on a bare stage with only a wall of mirrors as a backdrop, the winner of nine Tony’s and the Pulitzer for Drama, A Chorus Line requires sharp choreography and a developing empathy for the 17 dancers who bare their lives onstage.   You can’t expect a Broadway style dance ensemble, yet Director/Choreography Marilyn Izdebski makes the very most of her eager and committed cast.  Using local actors of all physical types, this production has a homey, egalitarian feel that does draw you into the characters minds as they open up about deeply personal issues. There’s so much infectious, youthful energy onstage to engage the audience in the audition process that embody the plotlines.

The backstory of these dancers fighting for a few coveted roles in the line was strong enough to win the Pulitzer and runs the gamut from the confidant tapper Mike (Carl Robinett), sexy and sassy Sheila (Katia McHaney) with her troubled childhood, foul-mouthed Val (Amanda Moranda) and Greg (Slieman El-ahmadieh), a gay man with a comic anecdote about sex with a woman.   There’s drama between ex-lovers Cassie (Deborah Ann Spake) and Choreographer Zach (Gregory Crane). The aging Cassie is desperate for a role while Zach questions her ability. Paul (Bryan Munar), a sensitive gay Puerto Rican reveals a touching moment of acceptance from his conservatively Catholic mother and father, before injuring himself during rehearsal.

Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban’s score sounds larger than Musical Director Judy Wiesen’s four-piece orchestra. The songs are iconic: the company’s palpable desperation of “I Hope I Get It”, confident Mike’s “I Can Do That”, the wry “Dance Ten, Looks Three” and Diana (Anna Vorperian) and the company’s) lovely “What I Did For Love”.  Kristine (Jannely Calmell) and hubby Al (Eric Levintow) have a ball on “Sing” and Vorperian shines on her recollection of a bad acting class in “Nothing”. Director Izdebski skillfully maneuvers her large cast, occasionally having to remove dancers from some numbers when crowding becomes an issue.

Almost everyone can empathize with the struggling dancers in A Chorus Line. Their diversity, while reflecting the dance community of NYC in the mid 70’s, also serves as a mirror to us all. The wide appeal of this show is that we see ourselves, as well as the dancers, reflected in the mirror.

A Chorus Line continues through September 30th, 2018 at Novato Theater Company, 5420 Nave Drive, Novato. Tickets are available online at https://www.novatotheatercompany.org/ or by calling 855-682-8491.

Photo credit by Fred Deneau.