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REVIEW: A Heart-Thrumming Chorus Line (Ordway)

The cast of the Ordway’s A Chorus Line. Photo by Rich Ryan.

A Chorus Line is one of a very small number of large-cast musicals still performed by major companies. It features no fewer than 17 principals, 15 of whose job is to make you care about them and root for their being cast in the show-within-a-show (there’re also 9 others who don’t make the first cut – them’s thar breaks). It’s a musical that really does feel different from every other musical, filled with delightful and often moving character moments – something for everyone. It’s also a show that feels right at home in the expanse of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts’ Music Theater – much more so than most touring shows, which have to scale to varying venue sizes.

Something that contemporary productions of A Chorus Line must face is an invisible pressure to conform to the show’s iconic cast album, which many viewers will have listened to exhaustively. Raymond Berg’s musical direction steers its own course, which is good; these particular spins feel warmly authentic to the characters. Interestingly enough, some of the cast members have made something of a professional specialty of this show – Tiffany Chalothorn (Connie) even appears in a book about the musical.

The arc of this show has many different beats, many of which are quite striking in this particular production. The trio “At the Ballet,” featuring Sheila (Pilar Millhollen), Bebe (Katie Hahn), and Maggie (Amanda Lea LaVergne) is especially beautiful rendered in its rendition, as is Cassie (Molly Tyne)’s dance-and-ballad breakout in “The Music and the Mirror” – also an excellent piece of choreography by co-director/co-choreographers Kerry Casserly and James Rocco. With the show being delivered without intermission, it’s a long train-ride to the finish, but never feels slow or rushed.

Basil Considine