Heartfelt performances distinguish the Manatee Players’ production.
By Kay Kipling
More than most shows, A Chorus Line is one that makes you feel for the actors onstage—not just for the characters they’re playing, but for the individuals in that specific cast, that specific production. That’s because they, like their characters, are laying it all on the line, baring their imperfect bodies and souls for the approval, not only of the casting choreographer, Zach, but for the audience.
That’s probably why we tend to be more forgiving of their flaws. In the Manatee Players production of this Michael Bennett megahit about “gypsies” or chorus line dancers desperately auditioning for a new show, much of the cast is too young for their roles, or they don’t physically look like Broadway dancers should. But for the most part, their heartfelt performances help to overcome that problem.
In case there’s anyone on the planet who hasn’t seen A Chorus Line, it introduces us to that group of hopefuls—nearly 30 in all—who are quickly winnowed down to 16, from which Zach (Danny Lewis) will ultimately choose only eight. But he wants more from these wannabes than dance moves and a resume; he wants their personal life stories, and he gets them both through their speeches and the show’s Marvin Hamlisch-Edward Kleban songs.
Although when the full cast is onstage their numbers tend to look crowded and not that precise, individual members do stand out well on their own, from the women wistfully recalling how life was beautiful At the Ballet to the would-be actress Diana (Raven Jones), who felt Nothing in acting class, to the spirited Val (Mary Burns), whose career took off only after quite a bit of plastic surgery, to Cassie (Wendy James), the “star” who just wants back into the line. And, near the end, the story of Paul (Tim Baker), a young man whose career may be cut short, rings true and leads us nicely into the What I Did for Love number.
One feels that director-choreographer Kelly Burnette must sometimes have struggled to manage this large and disparate cast, and there’s certainly no way that either the dancers or the orchestra can compete with memories of professional productions of the show. But for A Chorus Line aficionados (of which there are many), the universal appeal of the storyline, and of this hard-working cast, may override such comparisons.
A Chorus Line continues through May 13; for ticket info call 748-5875 or go to manateeplayers.com.