Reviews

PTC’s ‘A Chorus Line’ is the ‘Tits and Ass’ of Musicals

Pioneer Theatre Company’s  2009–10 season has opened with a valiant production of one of the highest-honored musicals in Broadway history. PTC, I must admit, is brilliant in its choice for the season opener. Draw in the masses, drive up ticket sales in this ungrateful economy and do it without spending exorbitant amounts of money on costumes and staging. Whether these were the true reasons behind the decision, their production of the nine-time Tony award-winner, A Chorus Line, should — and likely will — drive up ticket sales if not, those ever-coveted season ticket packages.

Set in the mid-70s, and based on actual auditions, A Chorus Line follows 17 underappreciated dancers or “gypsies,” as they were called, through one grueling day of auditioning.

Zach (Jeffry Denman), the director holding the auditions, and his assistant Larry (Peter Nelson) spend a day rifling through an array of personalities, talents, attitudes and even personal conflicts. After a few rehearsal numbers, Zach makes his first cut, of whom includes “headband” boy, who can’t keep from looking at his feet while dancing. The 17 remaining dancers are then called into formation and asked to talk about themselves. This is the meat of the show — a series of sometimes funny, sometimes emotional, sometimes awkward recounts of the personal lives of a diverse spectrum of individuals.

The dancers range from a tall, qawky 20-something named Judy (Elizabeth Clinard), who’s from El Paso, Texas and hides her fear in humor; to a young, gay Puerto Rican boy, Paul (Michael Angel Falcon), who’s career has been limited to drag shows; to a sexy, aging dancer, Sheila (Erin Denman), with a Rose McGowan-like attitude; to a married couple, Al and Kristine (Brad Bradley, Ashely Gardner Carlson) — he, a short Italian with a mobster’s inflection and she, a submissive who’s tone deaf.

As Zach weighs his final choice of only eight out of the 17 dancers to join the chorus, the “gypsies” ponder the existential question, “What happens if I can’t or don’t ever dance again?” Then when Zach finally announces the lucky eight, it’s honestly hard not to feel just as disappointed as the nine who are rejected.

Unlike the expectations of today’s dancers, where they’re not only expected to know several styles of dance, but are also able to showcase such styles with acute perfection and fervent agility, and with the fact that today’s audiences are continuously pampered with such extreme talent, the dance numbers in A Chorus Line, are somewhat outdated — a bit tame — and therefore a little disappointing … just a little. It was most apparent, on opening night, in the solo of Kimberly Dawn Neumann, who plays Cassie, the “most talented” among all the auditioners. However, the routine lacked energy, as if the “most-talented” dancer had just woken from a drug-induced stupor.

That alone is the only criticism of the show, and hopefully a short-lived one at that for the rest of its run. And the highest praise goes to the outstanding vocals, which induce great pleasure and satisfaction in the audience, to the show’s well-known hit songs like “I Hope I Get It,” “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three,” (originally titled “Tits and Ass,” and enrichly performed by Kaitlyn Davidson) and “One (Singular Sensation).”

A Chorus Line is “auditioning” through Oct. 10 at Pioneer Theatre, 300 S. 1400 E., UofU. Tickets available at pioneertheatre.org.

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