I’ll be the first to admit I started listening to A Chorus Line when I was way too young. That being said, I think I can properly appreciate it for all its splendor, hilarity, and heart because of that.
I will also admit I had absolutely zero idea how the stage at Richmond Triangle Players could fit all of those dancers. Needless to say, they succeeded.
A Chorus Line comes from the “second Golden Era” of Broadway, the 1970s, when it seemed as though dozens upon dozens of musicals were coming out. Some winners of that era included Godspell, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Follies, Company, Pippin, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and many more. However, A Chorus Line seemed to set itself apart, putting its tracklist into the minds, hearts, and voices of many during that time, especially its unforgettable number, “What I Did For Love.”
Minutes before showtime, actors started to trickle in from backstage with their dance bags, warming up and prepping before their “audition.” It caused a slight confusion for some audience members, but an overhead announcement marked the “beginning” of the audition (show) by saying the dancers had 10 minutes before they would start. The dancers warmed up, rehearsed the moves, or chatted nervously with one another. Zach, the director of the unnamed show the dancers are auditioning for, played by the powerful Alexander Sapp, entered, beginning the audition/show. For the bulk of the show, Sapp sat at the back of the theatre speaking through a microphone to be heard by all, a common practice by many directors of massive auditions in New York.
Director Justin Amellio, who also choreographed the production, did a marvelous job fitting all of those dancers- and their dancing limbs- onto the somewhat small stage at RTP. His direction allowed for seamless transitions, utilized beats well, and was executed indescribably well.
The cast of 23 doesn’t leave much room in this article for applause for every single performer simply due to its sheer size. However, there were definitely standout performers in many of the realms. Dancing-wise, Derrick Jaques (Al), Coldin Grundmeyer (Mike), Mallory Keene (Val), and Rachel Marrs (Maggie) were eye-catching. Jaques and Marrs were also incredibly impressive vocally, alongside Alexa Cepeda (Diana) and Ty Boone (Richie). It wouldn’t be A Chorus Line without a strong delivery from the young Paul, played by Steven Rada. His tearful delivery of Paul’s painful monologue made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. He embodied the youth, fear, pain, and hope of Paul.
The beautiful part about A Chorus Line is that there really isn’t one main star. The fact that the show is about the chorus, the ensemble, the “background,” means every single actor onstage had a substantial part. It is also worth mentioning that every single performer onstage needs to be a triple threat- actor, singer, and dancer. The cast was diverse in race, body type, and even skill, which added to the charm and realness of the story.
That being said, there is one character, Cassie, who has a lengthy solo and an individual storyline apart from the dancers. Played by the captivating Daria DeGaetano, Cassie made herself a career, breaking out of the chorus from a young age. Her former romantic relationship with director Zach ended bitterly. But after her failure at continuing her career out in California, Cassie heads back to New York to get any work she can, including in the chorus line. Zach stubbornly refuses, resulting in Cassie performing an almost seven-minute-long dance and singing solo, “The Music and the Mirror.” DeGaetano seemed a little reserved in her singing, either preserving her voice from belting or just the inability to reach the notes. However, what she lacked in powerful singing she made up in unforgettable dancing. She utilized the entire stage in her emotional dance performance, proving to Zach that she has the talent and heart to take any role. All she needs is “the music, the mirror, and the chance to dance” for Zach.
The show is rife with comedic moments. Cepeda gave a hilarious and youthful version of Diana, including in her heartfelt version of “Nothing.” Keene’s flirtatious yet comedic “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three,” left the audience in stitches. Zuri Petteway was a surprise, creating a younger yet still sassy Sheila. Some of her comedic moments fell flat, but overall, her effort was accomplished.
A Chorus Line is a beast of a show. The amount of talent, attention to detail, and mastery for execution is hard to balance. It’s safe to say that RTP’s production accomplished this.
Tickets are selling fast for A Chorus Line. It has been extended through July 14, and you can get tickets to see it at the Robert B. Moss Theatre here.