Theater Review - 'A Chorus Line'
Monday, May 14, 2018 at 10:39AM
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Theater Review – ‘A Chorus Line

Produced by The Gateway Theater – Bellport

Reviewed by Jeb Ladouceur

    

When seventeen desperate-for-work dancers make the first audition cut for an upcoming Broadway musical, the Director and his Choreographer inform the survivors that they’re looking for a chorus line of (oh dear!) only eight members … four boys and four girls. “Tell me about yourselves,” says ‘Director Zach’ … and that’s how he and ‘Larry’ (his Choreographer) will determine who stays, and who is summarily excused.

The hopefuls aren’t nuts about this unusual method of measuring talent but what’s a hoofer to do when at the end of his or her rope? Five – six – seven – eight… If you’re a professional dance aspirant, you don’t tell Directors and Choreographers how to gauge ability … not if you expect to stick around long on stage, you don’t. So, one by one, the candidates start to reveal even intimate details about their lives, invariably beginning with their earliest dance experiences.

After the first two young men have fessed up to what can only be termed confidential childhood information, the other contestants begin seriously to wonder whether agreeing to this strange audition technique was a good idea after all. I mean, how much should the performers tell these guys? To say that the odd process makes one uncomfortable is an understatement. But, what the hey … that’s show business, right? Five – six – seven- eight…

I’ve always thought this story-line device is more than a bit thin. After all, if it’s truly required, there are ways to extract an individual’s innermost feelings apart from flat-out demanding to know chapter and verse about one’s life story. Accordingly, it’s this critic’s view that one should approach The Gateway’s snazzy production of ‘A Chorus Line’ with total disregard for the contrived ‘personal revelation’ premise right from the outset. Because it really doesn’t matter, folks. There’s plenty of glitz in this production to bring the show gloriously across the finish line without all the unnecessary psychological nonsense.

How successful was ‘A Chorus Line’ after it opened at New York’s Shubert Theatre in 1975? Well, not only was the boffo musical nominated for a dozen Tony awards (winning nine), but Broadway theatergoers kept the Marvin Hamlisch show in demand on The Great White Way for more than six thousand performances. It became the longest-running production in The Big Apple’s history until surpassed by the iconic ‘Cats’ in 1997. Indeed, ‘A Chorus Line’ remains the 6th longest-running show ever to light up Broadway!

Many theater patrons assume that this musical is a takeoff on the familiar theme wherein a stageful of eager young performers dance their hearts out in pursuit of that one big break that will bring them fame and fortune. Not entirely. ‘A Chorus Line’ is largely about veteran hoofers who are approaching the culmination of their careers and are desperate to achieve one more success while they still possess the necessary terpsichorean tools. It’s this novel twist on an otherwise everyday stratagem that saves the James Kirkwood Jr. – Nicholas Dante book from mediocrity. Though it must be acknowledged that in 1976 Kirkwood and Dante did, in fact, win both the Tony and Drama Desk awards for Best Book of a Musical. Go figure.

One thing is a lead pipe cinch, however: when regional theaters like The Gateway, Theatre Three, and The Engeman want to send audiences home tapping their toes and humming a familiar refrain, they can’t go wrong treating them to ‘A Chorus Line,’ or any other Marvin Hamlisch production. Long a favorite of the great Barbra Streisand, Hamlisch (who died at 68) was one of but 12 people to win Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. What’s more, only Richard Rogers joins him in having added a Pulitzer Prize to that impressive lineup.

The Gateway never disappoints … never! Whether the show they’ve mounted is performed at the sumptuous Patchogue Theater, or the ultra-comfortable playhouse in Bellport. And that’s true of the current offering at the latter venue. It’s hard to imagine a more impressive production than the ‘…Chorus Line’ being staged there thru May 26. The single hope from this quarter is that readers will take advantage of the unforgettable experience that awaits them there.

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Award-winning writer, Jeb Ladouceur is the author of a dozen novels, and his theater and book reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. His recent hit, THE GHOSTWRITERS, explores the bizarre relationship between the late Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Ladouceur’s newly completed thriller, THE SOUTHWICK INCIDENT, was introduced at the Smithtown Library in May. The book involves a radicalized Yale student and his CIA pursuers. Mr. Ladouceur’s revealing website is www.JebsBooks.com


Article originally appeared on Smithtown Matters - Online Local News about Smithtown, Kings Park, St James, Nesconset, Commack, Hauppauge, Ft. Salonga (http://www.smithtownmatters.com/).
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