Signature Theatre has revived Michael Bennett’s groundbreaking musical, “A Chorus Line,” with a re-choreographed version, and the result is a show that still thrills 44 years after its Broadway run.
The show, which is about the aspirations of Broadway dancers as they audition for dancing and singing spots in a new musical, garnered Bennett nine Tony awards and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. To revise the legendary director’s choreography is almost unthinkable. However, Signature’s Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner and Tony-nominated choreographer Denis Jones’ revision still captures the musical’s emotions, tension and struggles.
“A Chorus Line” was dedicated to “anyone who has ever danced in a chorus or marched in step…anywhere,” and the success of the original show was due to its stories resonating with everyone—not just those who dance.
When developing the concept, Bennett gathered a group of dancers to share their stories and experiences. The interviews grew from why they began dancing to childhood memories, adolescent awkwardness, insecurities, sexuality and more.
It was a peek into the soul of a fellow human being, and with so much disconnect today, the show is a welcome return to intimacy and will resonate with today’s baby boomers.
“A Chorus Line” features spectacular singing and dancing, and Signature has done a superb job in casting actors who are blessed equally with the ability to dynamically pull off both. In the opening minutes, we see 23 individuals try out for the coveted eight positions as they belt out “I Hope I Get It.” Their nervousness about whether they will make the final cut is both touching, moving and believable. On the night that I attended, the audience seemed to collectively pull for each actor on stage.
The show’s closing number, “One,” remains one of the most recognizable dance routines of all time, with its top-hats tipped in unison while the dancers extend their legs high, but many exhilarating moments are leading up to that scene.
Trevor Michael Schmidt dances up a storm in the number “I Can Do That” that calls for amazing endurance and athletic skills. Emily Tyra is lovely as the former star, Cassie, who is competing to get back on top after a fall from grace. Tyra’s rendering of “The Music and the Mirror” is performed with a tenderness that is stirring, while the number “At the Ballet” is given a fresh delivery by Jillian Wessel as Bebe, Kayla Pecchioni as Maggieand Maria Rizzo as Sheila.
Putting the dancers through their paces is Zach, the casting director, and Matthew Risch is relentless, demanding and stern. He interviews each dancer with an unnerving fierceness as he draws out one personal confession after the other. When he has to dismiss a dancer who has poured out their heart, however, he seems to be genuinely sorry.
Other members of this talented ensemble include Adena Ershow, as Val, whose rendition of “Dance: Ten: Looks: Three” is wonderfully funny, and Samantha Marisol Gershman as Dina pulls out all the stops on “What I Did for Love.”
Backing the company is a terrific group of musicians conducted by keyboardist Jon Kalbfleisch. The production runs through Jan. 5 at Signature Theatre located at 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, Virginia. For tickets, visit SigTheatre.org.