July 7, 2012 performance reviewed by Frances Benn Hall
Berkshire Theatre Festival‘s production of A Chorus Line is a dynamic reenactment of its original performance that involves so many specialists, in the fields of orchestra, choreography, lights, sound, and costumes that we can merely list them and aver that they are all deserving of high praise.
This short speculation concerns the part played by Eric Hill as Director and what possibly was included in his involvement, and considers evidence of his working with the dancers in character interpretation. It also gives opportunity to discuss some of the scenes that moved me and to list a few names of performers whose work I admired.
The scenes chosen are ones in which a chorus member, desperate to be chosen, bares his soul, and in doing so makes one consider WHY these “children” for they are mainly still young, endure constant rejection at auditions as they try to hang onto a career choice that is perilous at best.
Asked to talk about themselves, they are confused, reluctant, rambling and avoiding, but in their self-confessions are woven into songs and dances that begin with childhood and move through growing as a struggling dancer. Nili Bassman as Cassie has a story that breaks the heart as she pleads for a chorus job, she who has been a star, a lead, demoting herself from past stardom no begging to be in the chorus line. She needs a job. She needs to eat. She knows the stardom is behind her.
Paul (Eddie Gutierrez) near the play’s end, brings into appalling focus how painfully and confusedly he has struggled with his sexual identity, especially in relation to his father, and his adolescence, and shares with us the moment when his father almost accepts him.
Sheila (Dana Winkler), Bebe (Julienna Katz) and Maggie (Karley Wilcocks) are fleet and lyrical and poignant in their memories of how it all began, when as tiny little girls they had fathers interested in their small ballerinas, and how “everything was beautiful at the ballet.”
In dance, song and story, the show is threaded with dancers who share their joys and dreams but let us realize, perhaps for the first time, how much it has cost them and how willingly they have sacrificed. The musical numbers that evolve from these confessions are as varied as the experiences, all choreographed with precision and style (or humor if needed). And, of course, this alerting the audience to a side of life in the chorus line that we possibly never considered, the sacrificial one, is important.
However the real joys of the play are the marvelous skills of the dancers, the musicians, and all who make this such a glorious evening at the theatre. And behind all that, the skills of the theatre artists who make it all possible. Go. And watch out for the hats. Because hats matter gloriously in what I think of as “the silver surprise” when we thought we had seen it all and were clapping furiously.