A Chorus Line Gets A Much Deserved Glorious Encores! Production

Encores!A Chorus Line
The cast of A Chorus Line. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Review: NYCC Encores’ A Chorus Line

By Ross

Going to see the New York City Center Encores! production of A Chorus Line is a most wondrous trip down memory lane to a time when I was all young and innocent, just like many of those magnificent creations on stage last night. Don’t tell Mama, but I used to sneak a way to New York City from my little Canadian city of London, via Buffalo and People’s Express Airlines when I was a teenager, far too young to be doing that, but I just needed to spend a weekend of seeing Broadway musicals (and a few plays).  I’ve written about these moments before on this blog, but this time, it’s about the quintessential musical of all those trips is A Chorus Line.  I don’t recall if it was my first true Broadway musical or my second (Dreamgirls might be my first), but the lives and loves of these dancers were already firmly cemented in my head from the audio tape I had at home. These dancers meant something profound to me and my passion, just as much as musical theatre meant to these characters, and the people who helped create them. I remember it clearly, seeing it the Shubert Theatre sometime around 1980 (it actually opened in 1975), and the 2006 revival with a cast that included Charlotte d’Amboise and Tony Yazbeck, (the 1985 movie version isn’t worth mentioning), and just like this current NYCC production, A Chorus Line is directed by Bob Avian, who won his first Tony Award as co-choreographer for the original production of A Chorus Line, with Michael Bennett’s original and monumental choreography being reconstructed by Baayork Lee, Broadway’s original Connie Wong.

Encores!A Chorus Line
Tony Yazbeck (center) and cast of A Chorus Line. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Those two are back, with revival Al DeLuca, Tony Yazbeck (Broadway’s Prince of Broadway) transferring to the power role of director Zach, with the musical director/coordinator Patrick Vaccariello (Broadway’s West Side Story) and orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, Bill Byers, and Hershy Kay giving glorious musical splendor to Edward Kleban’s lyrics and Marvin Hamlisch’s music, for which they received the 1975 Tony, Drama Desk, Olivier Awards, as well as the Pulitzer Prize. Michael Bennett’s conceptual piece, drafted together by a group of frustrated dancers, led by Tony Stevens and Michon Peacock, is beautifully realized once again on the NYC stage, and it hasn’t lost any of its power or appeal.  With a cast of spectacularly talented dancers and singers, A Chorus Line resonates just as it did for me 28 years ago. The songs are firmly planted in my head with every word and accent still present and persistent. With other shows, that fact sometimes makes it hard to enjoy a fresh new version, but with the likes of Diana, played magnificently by Tara Kostmayer (La Jolla’s Ojo) singing the glorious “Nothing” and the epic “What I Did For Love“; Mike, powerfully played by Tommy Bracco (Broadway’s Pretty Woman) decimating the dance floor with an athletic and divine rendition of “I Can Do That“; or Sheila (Leigh Zimmerman – Olivier Award winner for West End’s A Chorus Line), Bebe (Naomi C. Walley – Broadway’s Chicago), and Maggie (Sara Esty – Encores’ Grand Hotel) breaking our heart with “At the Ballet” (one of my all time favorites), the glorious wonder of the piece remains solid and everlasting. J. Elaine Marcos (Broadway’s Annie) also takes on one of the most memorable songs, “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three” with renewed clarity and vigor disarming all.

Encores!A Chorus Line
J. Elaine Marcos (center) and cast of A Chorus Line. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Encores!A Chorus Line
Jay Armstrong Johnson (center) and cast of A Chorus Line. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Everyone shines in this piece, just as they should, with nary a step out-of-place.  Jay Armstrong Johnson (Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera, off-Broadway’s The Man Ones) is gorgeous and dynamic as Buffalo Bobby spinning a tale that is as delicious as he is; Kate Bailey (Paper Mill’s Grease) kills triumphantly as the off-key Kristine with help from the cute and talented Joseph J. Simeone (Broadway’s A Bronx Tale) as the adorable husband Al; the heavenly and handsome Max Clayton (Broadway’s Hello, Dolly!) as strip club stud, Don, delivers; David Grindrod (Beauty and the Beast – national tour) gives Mark the holy power of divine confession; Jolina Javier (Avery Fisher Hall’s Cinderella) is a huge presence as a petite firecracker exploding forth as Connie; Denis Lambert (Encores’ Finian’s Rainbow) is perfection in droll and fabulous black as Greg; Melanie Moore (Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof) is quirky and pixie adorable as Judy, and Anthony Wayne (Broadway’s Once on this Island) is simply being fantastic as the high kicking coulda-been kindergarten teacher, Richie. A magnificent symbiotic sensation.

Encores!A Chorus Line
Anthony Wayne (center) and cast of A Chorus Line. Photo by Joan Marcus.

In addition, acting chops go to the dancer Eddie Gutierrez (Ars Nova’s Loveology), as the quieter and possibly more damaged Paul. He tears us apart, perfectly balancing pain and persistence, fear and discomfort for us all to connect with. It’s one of many moments with this superb recreation when we get to see the struggling souls behind the bodies, the pain behind the pirouette, and the passion that lives inside the strong and defiant dancer looking for that beginning, that middle, or that final bow. Robyn Hurder (pre-Broadway’s Moulin Rouge) defines this determination and heart-break with every sound that comes out of her mouth, taking on the complicated and powerful Cassie, singing and dancing her heart out magnificently with the classic “The Music and the Mirror“. She’s an absolute glorious dancer, but it is when she belts out those lyrics that we truly feel we are seeing inside and joining with her passion. The somewhat forgotten are the first to be cut, but they also deserve our praise. It’s not easy finding unique characters in the eliminated ones, bringing carefully discovered personality to the forefront within those first few moments of that incredible conceived audition medley: Callan Bergmann (Broadway’s Kinky Boots) as foot-gazing headband-wearing Frank, Natalie Bourgeois (MUNY’s Hairspray) as ballerina Lois, Wesley Ian Cappiello (Gypsy – national tour) as wrong-armed Roy, Aaron Patrick Craven (Dirty Dancing – national tour) as the attitude filled Butch, Emily Franch (White Christmas – regional) as the non-ballet trained Vicki, Jenna Nicole Schoen (NY’s Jersey Boys) as solo Tricia, and Ahmad Simmons (Broadway’s Carousel) as standout jock-man, Tom.

Encores!A Chorus Line
Robyn Hurder of A Chorus Line. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Ryan Steele (Broadway’s Newsies) delicately leads the dancers through their routines as assistant Larry, and in his presence and the demanding way he leads these dancers through the paces, it reminds us that Encores! does the seemingly impossible.  This crew of super talented professionals is given the shortest of rehearsal periods to pull this synchronicity together in record time.  Each one needs to perform with precision, and the shocking thing is that they do. A Chorus Line dazzles and intoxicates, even if you forget about the preparation time frame.  I have a feeling that within the opening dance audition segment, for a dancer to purposefully make choreographed mistakes might be far more complicated and unnatural than getting it right. It’s equal to the moments when Kristine has to astoundingly sing off-key, but that is just my guess and you can correct me if I’m wrong. But this crew doesn’t miss a step. To dance and sing this show as clearly a unit as they do, is utterly amazing, and a testament to everything this show is about. These gypsies deserve the stars, and our praise. So stand up and cheer for A Chorus Line. They are, obviously, one singular spectacular sensation, historically and into the future.

Encores!A Chorus Line
The cast of A Chorus Line. Photo by Joan Marcus.

F4337D3E-03B9-4C54-8AC2-31E8262EB0CC

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. […] Encores! A Chorus  Line The cast of Encores! A Chorus Line. Photo by Joan Marcus. “Michael Bennett’s conceptual piece, drafted together by a group of frustrated dancers, led by Tony Stevens and Michon Peacock, is beautifully realized once again on the NYC stage, and it hasn’t lost any of its power or appeal. With a cast of spectacularly talented dancers and singers, ‘A Chorus Line’ resonates just as it did for me 28 years ago…The glorious wonder of the piece remains solid and everlasting.” Full Review  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child The company of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Photo Credit Matthew Murphy “This play and production is theatrical genius with layers upon layers of cape-tastic excitement and wand-elishous magic that just keep out-doing itself, raising the bar from one moment to the next…The true beauty of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is that everyone can enjoy and take great pleasure in Moaning Myrtle, and this story. As meticulously directed by co-creator Tiffany, no one is left behind; everyone is invited to this wondrous party as this production flies up high.” Full Review  Company The cast of COMPANY “The main reason my November trip occurred in the first place began with the announcement that Sondheim’s Company was being revived in the West End and one of my all time favorites, Patti LuPone (Gypsy, Sweeney Todd) was going to play Joanne, a part made famous by Elaine Stritch back on Broadway in 1970. I’ve seen LuPone perform the famous, “The Ladies Who Lunch” when she sang as part of a red-dressed ladies giving celebration to Sondheim’s 80th birthday. LuPone wondrously sang the song with a sweet nod directly to Stritch’s red hat stating,  “I’ll drink to that!” LuPone was also seen in the role opposite Neil Patrick Harris at the 2011 New York Philharmonic concert version, one I missed live but watched a live recording streamed from somewhere into my living room while cursing the world for allowing me to miss it. But here in London, directed with a wise and creative twist by Marianne Elliott (National’s Rules for Living, West End/Broadway’s Curious Incident…, Angels in America), I get a second chance. And boy, am I drinking to that (and sitting in my apartment in NYC, I hope one day to get a second round)…” Full Review Moulin Rouge – Boston Karen Olivo, Aaron Tveit. Moulin Rouge. Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018. “Logan has found a way to take the perfect and precious, and make it better, deeper, darker, and surprising…It’s highly stylized and dramatic…This is not going to be a carbon copy of the masterful film, but a reimagining…The additions are seamless and perfectly mixed…There are still some awkward staging moments that need attention before it can-can’s its way onto the Broadway stage, but they are all fixable and minor.” Full Review  Yerma John MacMillan, Billie Piper. Photo Credit: Stephanie Berger. “Simon Stone’s adaptation bares the weight of its history but drives it forward into the modern world of British culture and liberalism…It’s a sad and horrendous journey to watch, especially as enlivened by Piper and as coaxed through by director Stone into a journey riddled with complications and reactions that will be forever etched into my brain…If Piper doesn’t rip your heart in two, I’d wonder if you left it at home with your babysitter.” Full Review  Rattlestick’s Lewiston/Clarkston Edmund Donovan (standing) and Noah Robbins  in Clarkston. Photo by Jeremy Daniel. “I might not have gone, and then much to my horror, I would have missed out on something pretty damn special and astonishing. Because what playwright Samuel D. Hunter has done with his new two play evening, ‘Lewiston/Clarkston’ is dynamically astounding…The writing by Hunter is profound and exceedingly real, showcasing an interpersonal desire for connection and understanding…The acting is across the board magnificently moving and heart-breaking.” Full Review  The Inheritance The cast of The Inheritance. Photo by Marc Brenner. “It’s no wonder that the ambitious playwright Matthew Lopez (The Legend of Georgia McBride, The Whipping Man) was struck by the layers of Howards End and saw within the story a construct that could fit somewhere inside the psyche of a new generation of gay men, especially taking into account Edward Morgan Forster’s own personal battle with his own visibility and sexuality. Paying a certain homage to the fore-bearers of gay culture, The Inheritance tackles a tremendous amount, pushing its place onto the mantle somewhere beside Kushner’s far more ethereal Angels in America with a slightly aggressive and pompous stance of an overly confident pretty boy, daring us to look away from its imperfect but devastatingly emotional six acts and seven hours. It is most decidedly a masterpiece, almost measuring up to Kushner’s triumphant Angels as it dives head first into 21st Century queer politics and the economic discrepancies within modern culture. It owes itself more to the closeted E. M. Foster than Kushner though, yielding a monumental piece about the turbulent lives of a group of young, ambitious gay New Yorkers floundering and excelling sometime after the peak of the AIDs crisis and strutting proudly into the gay frontier of love relationships, won marriage equality, and the loss of souls to addiction and community abandonment. Spanning generations of attachments and the entanglement of lives, The Inheritance bridges the themes of E. M. Forster’s novel to the past and present New York City, trying to understand the legacy that threads the two together, and what the two worlds owe to one another. ” Full Review The Prom “’The Prom’ proudly and easily surpassing its deceivingly stale title, reinventing the musical comedy wheel with stupendous charm, humor and a whole wagon full of heart and cleverness…Hilariously spot on lyrics overflows the punch bowl with smart and sassy songs one after the other, glorified by magnificent performances, and a heartfelt message of love, connection, and inclusion…A full throttle joy to behold.” Full Review  Three Tall Women Glenda Jackson, Alison Pill, Laurie Metcalf in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women. Photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe. “A cast made in acting heaven…The phenomenal Jackson…The magnificent Metcalf…The wonderful Pill…Beautifully resurrected play, directed with perfection by Mantello…Metcalf’s facial expressions and body language deserve an award unto itself, telling us stories that go far beyond what is said…Pill does wonders with what she is given, but it is in the second half where her true effervescence exists…But it is Jackson who you can barely take your eyes off. She is superb.” Full Review  Ars Nova’s Rags Parkland Sings the Songs IG the Future Andrew R. Butler & Stacey Sargeant. Photo by Ben Arons Photography. “Provocative and devastatingly smart…You will no doubt be blown away. And I mean that in the best possible way as I attempt within this review to reveal nothing except an idea of the electric magnificence that explodes from that cramped stage…It’s a deeply immersive weaving of rebel politics and simple passion for existence sung from a futuristic time. It’s drenched in old American folk music directed with style and emotional connectivity.” Full Review  Network “It’s devilishly brilliant in construct and design, formulating the studio wind up energy with a blood pumping authenticity…The play falters a bit midway through, loosing some of its time clock countdown adrenaline…The out front dramatics beamed in from outside slice us a bit too far from the emotional core, distracting us from the true cause, but as a piece of modern theater, Ivo Van Hove, and the brilliant craftsmanship of video designer Tal Yarden rises magnificently center stage.” Full Review  PH’s I Was Most Alive With You (L to R) Marianna Bassham (Astrid), Michael Gaston (Ash), Russell Harvard (Knox), Tad Cooley (Farhad). I Was Most Alive With You. Photo by Joan Marcus. “The level of conceptual thought and emotional storytelling align perfectly in Lucas’s new devastatingly good play…It leads you down a twisting and emotional road attempting to make sense out of chaos, holding your hand tightly but keeping the upcoming vista out of sight just enough that the ending remains unknown…This vehicle, that is so well constructed that it drives as smooth as one could hope…The only thing one can say when the lights come on…is ‘Wow’.” Full Review  Popcorn Falls Tom Souhrada, Adam Heller. Popcorn Falls. All photos by Monique Carboni. “‘Popcorn Falls,’ wildly and most wonderfully directed with brilliance and bravado by Christian Borle had me right where the show wants me, because its smarts exist in that very opening messiness, and that hook is precisely what makes this play by James Hindman such a tremendous joy and surprise…For a hilarious comedy, it truly is wonderfully detailed and drenched in emotion while never losing its wink and wet nod to the theatre audience.” Full Review  ATC’s Hangmen Mark Addy, Sally Rogers. Hangmen. Photo by Ahron R. Foster. “The first scene throws us quite quickly into the dark world…It’s a tense and electric scene, layered in twisted humor…’Hangmen’ packs a powerful and dark humored punch that keeps you dangling on the edge of your seat…McDonagh’s writing shines as bright as the gallows is dark and deadly…Surprising us with a few unexpected, dynamic, and sometimes hard to swallow orchestrations and twists, all the while engaging us completely with a breathless and ferocious relish.” Full Review  Daniel’s Husband Lou Liberatore, Ryan Spahn (seated), Matthew Montelongo, Leland Wheeler. Daniel’s Husband. Photo: Carol Rosegg. “On second viewing, the knowledge of where this piece is heading did alter the experience, but I wouldn’t say for the worse. It gave me insight into the shimmers of what was coming, weaved most delicately into the upholstery…’Daniel’s Husband’ expertly walks us through the complicated world where some hard fought human equality rights were won, but not desired by all…The writing is clearly defined, although moments feel a tad scripted.” Full Review  NYTW’s What The Constitution Means to Me Heidi Schreck, Mike Iveson. What the Constitution Means to Me. Photo by Joan Marcus. “Powerful evocative new play…As directed with a free-flowing and creative hand…it hits us deep and sharp, almost as complicated as the ripples of distrust and pain that strike through Schreck…The effortless grace of Schreck, pulling hard from her past experiences and history, solidifies the experience in such a compelling and moving way that one can’t help but be moved…I applaud Schreck for giving us a debate that feels so pure and required.”Full Review  Be More Chill Will Roland and George Salazar. BE MORE CHILL.photo by MARIA BARANOVA. “It deserves every bit of the hyper hype it has accumulated…It’s a young and feisty ‘Mean Girls’ musical, mixed with the Sci-Fi out of this world ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, with a light outsider touch of a humorous ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ layered on top of its catchy soundtrack. With super strong and festive music and lyrics…and a compelling and comical book…This amazingly funny and charming show delivers the goods.” Full Review  Desperate Measures Gary Marachek, Peter Saide, Lauren Molina, Nick Wyman, Connor Ryan, Sarah Parnicky. Desperate Measures. Photo by Carol Rosegg. “Hilariously silly but fun new musical…Opens with a surprisingly smart and funny bang…With solid music direction and orchestrations by David Hancock Turner and a smartly directed and choreographed good time by Bill Castellino the musical production giddily gallops forward, taking a convoluted Shakespearian text and improving on it. I never thought I’d say that, but ‘Measure for Measure’ mixed with Mel Brooks and a melodic musical score creates one great time at the dance hall.” Full Review  Honorable Mention: Torch Song – Broadway (although I only saw it off-Broadway) As I didn’t get to see it on Broadway this year, but reviewed it when it played on the off-Broadway Second Stage Theatre.  Back in November of 2017, I wrote: “Ruehl matches Urie’s Arnold as if they were truly related. Their entanglement is beyond explanation…The play’s true vulnerability lies in the honest depiction of its characters and their struggles with those others that hold that special place in their heart, courtesy of the exacting direction by Moisés Kaufman…It remains, most definitely and defiantly, a profound, hilarious, and deeply affecting experience. One that will be remembered for a lifetime.” Full Review  […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s