A Chorus Line

The California Musical Theatre Ensemble’s abridged version of A Chorus Line feels like a high school production. A good high school production but a high school production nonetheless. The chatter in the wings, over-zealous use of the spotlight and the mixed quality of the performances would be right at home in a gym hall though it’s probably not what you want from a production by students on some of the best musical theatre courses across the pond. It’s a perfectly competent piece of theatre but it is unlikely to make much of an impression on its audience.

This production acts as a perfectly serviceable introduction to the musical but it’s not much more than that.

A Chorus Line takes place during a group audition for eight chorus parts in an upcoming broadway musical. Zach, the director, wants to get to know his potential cast more personally, so one-by-one he asks the 17 dancers who’ve been called back to share some stories from their personal lives. First performed in 1975, it’s one of those shows that has aged somewhat. It still has plenty resonance in terms what it’s like to be a struggling professional performer working in a brutal industry but some societal references, such as the shame of working as a drag queen, have diminished power in a world that has (by and large) progressed.

It is a story that has power but the material has not been attacked by the ensemble, merely manhandled. As a result it doesn’t feel like the stirring exposé that A Chorus Line should be. It instead acts more as a showcase for its individual performers, who each get their turn in the aforementioned spotlight. The ensemble all have their strengths and weaknesses. Samantha Wojtaszek plays the drollness of Sheila well but isn’t quite as good at selling the emotional beats. Taylor G Herbel’s Val is funny but she has issues with projection. Each cast member is also generally more adept at either singing or dancing. The highlight of the show comes without doubt in the performance of Asher B Ehrenberg as Paul, whose sensitively delivered monologue reveals the depth of insecurity in his troubled character. It sparks an emotional investment which is missing up until that point.

The musical numbers are well performed. The harmonies are strong and the choreography is fine but the synchronised dancing lacks precision. The ensemble takes the title of the musical to heart when it comes to the blocking, which mostly sees the actors standing in a static line. It’s realistic but not hugely interesting to watch over a large period of time. Like a high school musical, it all just feels a bit slack and under-rehearsed. This production acts as a perfectly serviceable introduction to the musical but it’s not much more than that.

Reviews by Joe Christie

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The Blurb

Join the dynamic performers of the California Musical Theatre Ensemble and watch as this group of dancers and singers pour their hearts and their talents into an audition for the biggest role of their careers! A no holds barred production with all the sweat and tears that Broadway has to offer! With classic Broadway music and Fosse-style dancing.