Irving — First of all, don’t miss this evocative and elegant A Chorus Line, the 1975 Broadway blockbuster that gave musical theater dancers a surprisingly fascinating voice. Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas mounts a classy production, directed by original cast member Michael Serrecchia, of the multi-Tony Award winning show, conceived and originally directed by Michael Bennett, with Marvin Hamlisch’s music and lyrics by Edward Kleban.
The book, by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, won a Tony and the musical won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Of course it did. The timeless stories these dancers tell of their life-shaping passion for their art is the deep rudder for this show about the degree to which each chorus line dancer lives to perform in the top tier with others sharing the same drive and talent to make the cut for a Broadway show.
Director Serrecchia wins us over in the first number, flooding set designer Dane Tuttle’s bare, back-mirrored stage with 30 dancers of every height and shape, auditioning for spots in a new show. Demanding director Zach (an austere TJ Firneno.) and his assistant Larry (a lithe, stern Daniel S. Lim) test the dancers through several standard riffs. The whole company sings “I Hope I Get It.” Leaping through their paces, accompanied by the sharp 14-member pit orchestra conducted by Scott A. Eckert, the wanna-be dancers sing short take-outs about why “I really need this job.” We don’t want anybody to be eliminated from this galloping, glowing group.
But that’s what A Chorus Line is about. Making it. Or not making it. That simple. Before the second number, half the cast has packed up their tights and leotards, and headed for the warehouse exit. The remaining 17 characters tell the god-like, voice-only director in the back of the theater why they took up dancing and what brought them to this choose-me-or-not moment. Zach needs four boys and four girls. Period. Show me what you’ve got, and say how you got it. The play works because we’ve all been there, maybe not as dancers, but as writers or programmers or lovers or you-name-it.
The joy and suspense of A Chorus Line is in watching these driven performers bare their souls and give it all up on the stage to get the part. What else do we all do all our lives?
Serrecchia’s dramatically paced staging of Bennett’s stylish choreography is sweetly enhanced by choreographers Julie Russell Stanley, Megan Kelly Bates and Eddie Gutierrez. They make the most of the enticing, eager skills of the youthful cast.
This two-hour “audition,” played without intermission, is entrancing, from the full-cast opening number to the golden-costumed “One,” the famous top-hatted number where everybody has exactly the same hip-shift and leg-raise, while the chosen final few ironically celebrate the delight of a caterpillar like assemblage of dancers forming “one singular sensation.” Everybody, absolutely together now, kick!
Whistle-and-stomp performances in an all-round good cast are delivered by Grace Bradbury as Cassie, the director’s desperate ex, pleading to return to the line after failing to get another starring role. In her solo number, “The Music and the Mirror,” Bradbury’s Cassie has us enthralled by her deep backbends and grace in covering an entire stage with her movement.
Alejandra Bigio is a vocally commanding and comically appealing Diana, the brave dancer who admits she felt “Nothing” in her attempts to conjure up some visceral depth of a character in method acting classes. She also delivers a heartfelt lead in “What I Did for Love,” with the company, as they consider the sacrifices they’ve made to continue their dancing.
Caitlin Jones is a sexy, forthright and hilarious Val in her honest appraisal of talent versus body shape in “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three.” She’s long since altered her butt and bust to match her first-rate dancing skills.
The male ensemble is engaging, but less impressive in their dancing turns. I want the dancer singing about his great prowess in “I Can Do That” to deliver more than a couple of crossover tap dance riffs. Jonah Munroe, however, delivers a sensitive and touching monologue as Paul, the bullied young gay dancer who has found a way to express himself and his desires in his art.
But that’s just picking at straw hats. What a marvelous conception for a musical. Even as we are sorry to see the exit of the performers not hired, we celebrate with the perfected movement of the talented, lucky dancers who remain on the stage, the best of the best.
Opening night audiences applauded the final bows and perfectly synchronized “line” of legs and top hats, gleaming in costume designer Michael Robinson’s golden Spandex and satin. What’s not to stand and cheer about? Lights, mirrors, action. Oh, yes.