The Gateway Playhouse opened their 2018 season with A Chorus Line Friday, the hit that Michael Bennett brought to The Great White Way in 1975. It follows a group of performers, both green and seasoned, at “the audition of a lifetime,” celebrating the glitz and grind of making it in showbiz.
It’s no wonder why the musical held the record as the longest running show on Broadway for 15 years and has won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Director and Best Choreographer, along with a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Broadway really does come to Bellport with stage veteran Mitzi Hamilton in the driver’s seat as director. The Michael Bennett protégé has worked with the director-choreographer first on Seesaw before taking part in taped sessions with Bennett based on the actual lives of working dancers that eventually became the basis for A Chorus Line.
Hamilton inspired and originated the role of Val—played hilariously in this production by Amanda Miller—and has since staged numerous A Chorus Line productions nationwide with the original direction and choreography created by her mentor.
The show is deceptively powerful. At first, the lights come up and we see a crowded stage with a sparse set: either a black backdrop or a panel of mirrors reflecting a Broadway rehearsal room. Dozens of dancers in simple, colorful attire review their footwork at an audition led by their director, Zach (Victor Wisehart).
Yes, they can all dance. The sparse stage allows the actors to showcase their talents with Hamilton’s restaging of the original choreography. But who cares? What really matters is their stories. In his stunning Gateway review, Wisehart is more often heard than seen, tapping the psyches of 17 hopefuls with questions like “Why did you start dancing?”
And so each performer breaks away from the line, telling stories of their past, their families. Mike (Mike D’Amico) is a joy to watch leaping across the stage in “I Can Do That,” and Bobby (Kyle White) mixes dry humor and wit in his monologue, “And…”, briefly stepping out of the action as Richie (Michael Canada), Val (Amanda Miller) and Judy (Danielle Burdick) deliberate what they’ll reply.
“At the Ballet,” performed by Sheila (Kate Loprest), Bebe (Erika Conway) and Maggie (Jackie Raye) is a heart wrenching reminder of why we turn to art. Loprest captures Sheila’s strength and struggles elegantly and delivers her wisecracks with gusto.
As Diana, Alexandra Fassler-Barrus shows true talent in show stopping moments during “Nothing,” and the iconic number “What I Did For Love.” The infamous “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” is a brazen, sassy number that Miller nails with her charm. As Cassie, Sabrina Harper is convincing and portrays the out-of-work star during her unforgettable rendition of “The Music and the Mirror.”
One of the show’s most revealing, delicate moments was delivered by Eddie Gutierrez as Paul, a gay Puerto Rican. The monologue deals with struggle, identity and belonging and Gutierrez captured the entire audience with grace.
Portraying a married couple, Julia Lynn Sammon as Kristine and Nick Varricchio as Al are sweet and entertaining during “Sing!” Sammon’s shrieks and squeals are matched perfectly by Varricchio’s impressive vocals.
Individuals shine in their monologues paired with moody lighting, but the most thrilling numbers involve the entire company in “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” and “One,” reprised brilliantly at the show’s finale.
A Chorus Line is not to be missed. The cast is sensational, getting at the heart of what it takes to make it on Broadway. By the end of the two-hour performance, you’re rooting for all of them to get the job—but Zach still has a job to do. Who makes the cut?
Go find out at The Gateway.
Photo courtesy of The Gateway/Jeff Bellante