A Chorus Line shines spotlight on lives of Broadway dancers
By Tara DeLorenzo
By Tara DeLorenzo
Westminster College of Arts’ rendition of A Chorus Line proved to be “one thrilling combination” of dance and music, in the words of the final number, as the production took the Bart Luedeke Center Theater’s stage from Nov. 20-24.
This Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical, directed by Luis Villabon, with musical direction by Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Nathan Hurwitz, stayed true to its original Broadway direction and choreography, making for a captivating performance filled with intricate group numbers that left the audience in awe. The play is about big hopes and dreams, as performers take the stage trying to make their Broadway aspirations come true.
Centered on 17 Broadway dancers, the production looks beyond the résumés and headshots to get into the minds of the performers — and their hopes and fears — as the director, Zach (dance captain and sophomore musical theater major Colby Dezelick), with the help of assistant Larry (freshman musical theater major Braden Sweeney), conducts an audition that seems to be anything but conventional.
The stage remained bare, other than the tall mirrors that lined the back wall. The lighting emphasized the individual dancers, as Zach asked each one questions from a podium at the back of the theater.
Dezelick, with his dancing ability and his commanding, yet encouraging voice, played the role of Zach impeccably. His presence, even as he stood at the back of the theater, was powerful. He seemed to captivate both the performers and the audience as he conversed with the other actors.
Opposite of Zach is his former love interest and dancer Cassie (sophomore musical theater major Ashten Banister), who, after not finding success in Los Angeles, comes back to New York to audition for a place in Zach’s chorus line. Banister, while a stronger dancer than singer, had wonderful believability in her performance. Her rendition of “The Music and the Mirror” became a highlight of the show. Banister’s voice grew as the song intensified. Her dancing was graceful and, overall, she did a fantastic job.
Another highlight of the show was the song “At the Ballet,” which mixed the vocal styling of three different performers: spunky and confident Sheila (junior musical theater major Abbey Sierakowski), excited Bebe (senior musical theater major Brittany Ellis), and innocent and lively Maggie (senior musical theater major Sammi Penick). The balance of their different voices, and Penick’s spectacularly beautiful tone, made for a wonderful portion of the musical.
Adding to the depiction of the love of dance was sophomore musical theater major Molly Franco’s rendition of “Nothing.” Her character, Diana, embodied attitude and passion. Franco’s voice had so much energy and power behind it, as the song tells the story of her character’s struggles with her teacher at her performing arts high school. Franco personified Diana’s liveliness and love for dance, and she was able to enchant the audience.
“Sing!” makes for a great contrast in the play, breaking the tension and adding in quirky humor. Kristine (sophomore musical theater major Kiley Hinkle) and her husband Al (sophomore musical theater major Travis Przybylski) are newlyweds and Al is willing to do anything for his young and nervous wife. Przybylski and Hinkle had amazing chemistry and perfect timing. Kristine is meant to be more of a dancer, while Al is the singer, so in this number one must always be finishing the other’s sentences. Together, they had a bubbly energy and did a wonderful job portraying young newlyweds.
A standout in the cast was sophomore musical theater major Jimmy McEvoy, whose portrayal of Paul was so honest that he had the audience’s hearts breaking. Paul is a character anxious about his identity and nervous about who he has become. After an emotional childhood filled with bullying, he reveals he later joined a drag act. Paul’s breakdown was one of such believability and sincerity that the audience could not help but hope that he would make the cut. His interactions with Dezelick, as Zach moved from his podium to the stage, were extremely touching and moving.
While meant to take place in 1975, the story is one that remains timeless. The characters are in their practice leotards, pushing through Broadway-style dances, all praying and hoping they make the cut.
The story becomes more than just the pressure of auditions or the fear of not being good enough. It becomes a tale of hope, confidence, owning who you are and going for your dreams no matter what the consequences or the risks.
As the dancers watch Paul get hurt during the outstanding and intricate tap combination, Zach asks them, “What would you do if you couldn’t dance anymore?” In the heart-wrenching “What I Did for Love,” the ensemble comes together harmoniously to explain, as the lyrics say, that “the gift [of dance] was theirs to borrow,” and they regret nothing, even if they were forced to stop dancing. With the talented Franco in the lead, the cast did a fantastic job showing the true meaning of the play, as they reveal that they will give everything they have to their profession.
With the final glittering number, the auditions end and some make the cut, while others are sent to try again another day. Success or not, A Chorus Line illustrates the power of dreaming and how, through it all, dreams are worth pursuing, no matter how difficult the journey.
Printed in the 12/4/13 edition.