2017-06-16 / On The Town

‘Chorus Line’ stands the test of time with message, music

By Cary Ginell

BIG FINALE— The cast of High Street Art Center’s production of“ A Chorus Line” engage in high kicks during the show’s signature tune, “One.” The musical runs through July 2 at the Moorpark theater. Courtesy of Barbara Mazeika BIG FINALE— The cast of High Street Art Center’s production of“ A Chorus Line” engage in high kicks during the show’s signature tune, “One.” The musical runs through July 2 at the Moorpark theater. Courtesy of Barbara Mazeika PLAY REVIEW /// ‘A Chorus Line’

There are some Broadway musicals that have trouble standing the test of time. Changing technology and social mores have a way of defeating the relevancy of a show.

Not so with “A Chorus Line,” Michael Bennett’s venerable smash hit and 1975 Tony Award winner for Best Musical.

The show is onstage now at High Street Arts Center in Moorpark in a glistening production that proves its timelessness.

For years, “A Chorus Line” held the record for the longest-running show in Broadway history; it now ranks No. 6. Its plot consists solely of an audition, as 17 dancers vie for eight positions in the ensemble of an unnamed musical.

With no scenery other than a brick backdrop with mirrors on a bare theater set, and only hats for props, “A Chorus Line” was one of the most unusual shows of its time for allowing the story to focus solely on the distinctive personalities of the actors hoping to see their name in the playbill.

In the audition, Zach, the largely unseen director—in an authoritative turn by John Tedrick—asks each dancer personal questions about their past. It makes sense that a director would try to learn who each person is, much like a human resources manager would when conducting job interviews.

But in this case, the position is one that does not allow for individual personalities. Ensemble dancers, known in the business as “gypsies,” move in unison and are indistinguishable from one another. This is the great irony of “A Chorus Line.”

In the course of the show, we learn intimate details about who each person is, yet at the curtain call, they are identical and anonymous, each dressed in glittery gold top hats and tails as they sing and strut to the show’s signature number, “One.”

Director Christopher Mahr has done a masterful job in selecting just the right actor for each of the 17.

Dawn Notagiacomo is brilliant as Cassie, a veteran hoofer of 17 years who used to live with Zach but has now fallen on hard times and needs the work.

“I’m not going back, I’m starting over,” she tells him.

Notagiacomo sings and dances the solo highlight of the show, “The Music and the Mirror,” with grace and passion.

Juliana Lamia is superb as the streetwise, idealistic Diana, who leads the ensemble in singing the emotional “What I Did for Love.” Lamia’s earnest performance shows Diana as vulnerable but capable and confident, a terrific, nuanced balancing act.

Michael Worden and Jessica Bell play a married couple, Al and Kristine, who have one very funny scene in which Kristine tries to explain her tone-deafness while Al finishes most of her sentences.

McKenna Tedrick is the sweet natured, starry-eyed Maggie, who is giddy just to be considered for a Broadway show.

Some of the dancers display personal hang-ups, such as Connie (Kate Fruehling), who complains about being too short; Bebe (Annie Sherman), insecure about her looks; and Paul (Kyle Buchanan Prescott), who delivers an emotion-charged confessional of a humiliating run as a drag queen.

On the bold and brassy side are the bitchy, sexy Sheila (Mary Alice Brady), cocky tap dancer Mike (Samuel Thacker), all- American ladies man Don (Harry Cho), sharp-tongued Bobby (Jack Cleary) and foul-mouthed Valerie (Taylor Brown).

Rounding out the crew are sex obsessed Mark (Abel Alderete), cool and funny Richie (Michael Claridge), gawky scatterbrain Judy (Maya Galipeau) and gay smart aleck Gregory (Michael Kingman).

Choreographers Megan Rayzor and Kendyl Yokoyama did a fabulous job with the dance numbers, as did music director DJ Brady with the universally outstanding singing.

Patrick Duffy’s lighting design was especially powerful, and the culminating kick-dance routine for “One” brought rousing cheers from the audience.

“A Chorus Line” runs through July 2 at 45 E. High Street, Moorpark. Call (805) 529-8700 or visit www.highstreetarts.com. The show is recommended for mature audiences.

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