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by Michael L. Quintos
Despite a gluttony of productions from small community theaters and high school auditoriums to regional houses and touring venues over the past few decades, one would think that seeing A CHORUS LINE for the umpteenth time would be a tiresome exercise. Well, it certainly can be.
But, luckily, Orange County, CA-based 3D Theatricals' current production of this classic—now performing at the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton through May 27—doesn't quite elicit such a hasty "oh, I've seen this before" response. A fine, upstanding revival of this ubiquitous musical play, 3DT's enjoyable presentation—directed by the company's own co-founder T.J. Dawson—is buoyed mostly by its National Tour-caliber staging, choreography, lighting and costumes.
Of course, it also helps that the source material of their production is an impressive one: Winning nine Tony Awards in 1976—including statuettes for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score and Best Direction for its creative nucleus, Michael Bennett—the original production was also bestowed with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. After running 6,137 performances, this blockbuster hit with critics and patrons stands as the second longest-running American-backed Broadway musical ever.
At its core is a powerful book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante that eloquently compliments the memorable songs crafted by composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Edward Kleban. A searing, confessional show based on actual collected testimonials from real-life hardworking ensemble performers—whose individual talents are amazing despite their lack of marquee existence—A CHORUS LINE still manages to be an enjoyable fully-realized musical, even with its bare setting and simple hook: during the course of an intense day of company auditions, we meet 17 candidates of all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities and sexual orientations—all vying for those few, frequently elusive spots on an actual Broadway show.
With their backs towards us facing a wall of mirrors downstage, a huge mass of bodies—some with confidence, others with trepidation—are moving somewhat in unison. Within the mayhem, director Zach (Michael Paternostro) is barking dance steps like a military officer to the flustered, exhausted group of desperate hopefuls. It is interesting for both casual and in-the-know theatergoers to view the frustrations and anxieties that any of us would feel if we were in their situation... Am I good enough? Am I better than any of these people? What is Zach looking for? How am I going to pay the bills if I don't get this job?
After a brutal set of cuts, 17 are left. Thus begins the most unconventional of auditions: Zach asks each of them to introduce themselves and to provide personal details of their past—adding additional nervous anxiety. After some initial apprehension, they all eventually comply with the demand, mostly because they all want to land one of those damn spots in the show.
"You want the job, don't you?" posits Zach with a booming voice from his God-like perch high above and beyond the stage.
Soon we are treated to stories ranging from childhood discoveries and personal struggles, to tales of family strife and shared shortcomings—all of which straddle a line between being powerfully poignant and being, often, highly comical. Fortunately, the show is populated by a really great cast to convey these narratives, to dance these moves, and to, yes, sing these songs. Triple-threats? Check!
While all the members are wonderful in their own right, a few merit special mention. As Diana, Robin De Lano shines in her solo spotlights on "Nothing" and "What I Did For Love." As Cassie, Zach's former lover, Alexis A. Carra does an admirable job, particularly during her fiery dance solo in "The Music And The Mirror." The trio of ladies in "At The Ballet"—Tomasina Abate (Shiela), Hannah Simmons (Bebe) and Kristen Lamoureux (Maggie)—were all terrific (and, dang, Lamoureux hit that high note perfectly). As pint-sized, mysteriously-aged Connie, Momoko Sugai was adorably spunky.
Also great are Theresa Murray (as non-singing Kristine explaining her unfortunate predicament in "Sing!") and Cassie Silva (as the proud, surgically-enhanced Val)—both of whom handily steal the show during their comical solos. And, finally, tasked with the most dramatically gut-wrenching role of Paul, Kavin Panmeechao is excellent throughout, but most especially during his confessional, achingly pivotal monologue towards the show's end. It was hard not to cry along with his character during that moment.
The only flaw in this otherwise laudable production is the constant battle between the the cast's vocal performances and the sound produced by the band in the orchestra pit. While both entities are quite good in their own right, the audio sound mix is noticeably off-balance, with the band often winning the war of comprehension over the muffled voices of the actors, especially during the rousing numbers. Unless a particular actor is belting their notes in any given moment, prepare yourself to hear more of the band than the actual performers on stage.
But, despite that, though, 3D Theatricals' revival of A CHORUS LINE is truly a top-notch production for such young regional theater company. Once the entire ensemble finally comes together as a, yes, singular sensation in the gloriously flashy, high-kicking ending reprise of "One," the audience finds it almost impossible not to leap to their feet.
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Photos of 3D Theatricals' presentation of A CHORUS LINE by Isaac James Creative. From top to bottom: The cast awaits their fate; a trio (Lamoureux, Abate, Simmons) describe "At the Ballet" memories; Cassie (Carra) dances for her life.
Performances of 3D Theatricals' A CHORUS LINE continue at the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton through May 27, 2012 and are scheduled Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. A CHORUS LINE is directed by T.J. Dawson and features choreography re-staged by Linda Love-Simmons and musical direction by Julie Lamoureux.
The Plummer Auditorium is located at 201 East Champan Avenue in the city of Fullerton. For tickets or more information, call 714-589-2770 or visit www.3DTshows.com.