Friday, May 29, 2015

theatre review - A CHORUS LINE - Mesa Encore Theatre - May 24, 2015

Audrey Sullivan and Jean-Paoul Clemente (right side) 
and Cast
Photo: Ryan Roberts
"A Chorus Line is one of the most well-known and beloved musicals of all time..that requires a large, multi-talented cast who can act, sing, and dance their asses off. Mesa Encore Theatre's production of this classic musical is quite good, with a cast that delivers and the end result is a winning production of a musical that still resonates today, forty years after it first premiered.... portrays an audition set in 1975 for the dancing chorus of a Broadway show. The people auditioning are mainly veteran dancers in their 20s through early 30s. The show ends with Zach, the director/choreographer, picking the eight dancers who will be in his show....But before the eight are picked, Zach asks the dancers to talk about their lives...What the dancers reveal about their lives has a universality to it and that is why I believe the show is still meaningful today—in some way, each of us has something in common with at least one, if not many of the dancers on the stage...The production at Mesa Encore Theatre is a little rough around the edges in terms of the cast, who are relatively young; a few just graduated high school and one talented cast member is only 14....A Chorus Line is a show about people who've lived and have learned life lessons along the way, which is kind of hard to fully get across if you're only 18....But these shortcomings are never enough to be a detriment to the overall enjoyment of the production....Jean-Paoul Clemente is Zach, the director/choreographer. While Clemente pulls off the look and demeanor of a slightly egotistic creative type, some of his line readings lack determination as does his brief dancing with the cast. Fortunately, he is very good in his two dialogue-heavy dramatic scenes, one with Zach's former lover Cassie, and the other with the somewhat introverted and shy Paul. Alan Khoutakoun as Paul has the show's best dramatic moment when he talks about realizing he is gay, finding himself, and about his father finally calling him "my son."...Khoutakoun is excellent, giving the monologue an exceptional delivery and making that moment in the show both beautiful and heartbreaking. Audrey Sullivan has the right amount of determination as Cassie...though her big solo dance number seems to lack a little sizzle. Fortunately, her dramatic confrontation with Zach more than compensates for the less than stellar "Music and the Mirror" number, with both Sullivan and Clemente excellent in this confrontational scene....Jacqui Notorio is superb as Sheila...Her sassy, biting line delivery and knowing glances let us know exactly what she's been through in her life...As Diana Morales, Megan Rose projects a clear sense of determination and understanding in her story and song about the acting teacher who underestimated her skills, "Nothing," as well as very nice vocals in her solo part of "What I Did for Love." Riane Roberts is a hoot as Val, the girl who realized a little plastic surgery was what was needed in order to improve her job prospects....Peter J. Hill's direction is clear, providing fluid transitions throughout as well as expert acting from the majority of the cast. Noel Irick's choreography is only somewhat similar to Bennett's original dance steps, but with some nice added original touches that really work...A Chorus Line is about the passion one has for something, which is a feeling everyone can relate to. MET's production, with just a few very small quibbles, is moving, touching, buoyant, and joyful. Although the cast is on the young side, the end result is a success, as the roughness and young age of some of the actors is offset by the sheer energy, excitement, and talent they all display." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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