at Repertory Actors Workshop

Reviewed by David-Edward Hughes

In a commendable leap from staging straight plays like The Dining Room and Prelude to a Kiss, Repertory Actors Workshop--or ReAct, as it is better known--takes on this classic 1970s Broadway musical. Faltering most with Kevin Miller's orchestra, which is at best ramshackle and at worst downright painful to the ear, this Chorus Line stays afloat on the basis of several strong performances, non-traditional casting, and a heart firmly planted on its sleeve.

Michael Bennett's group-ecounter sessions, which were adapted by playwrights James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, composer Marvin Hamlisch, and lyricist Ed Kleban, grew into the musical of its era, a show which steel workers and schoolteachers and everyone in between could relate to, as a group of auditioning Broadway show dancers tell their life stories to a Bennett-esque director.

Director David Hsieh and co-choreographers Scot Anderson, Audrey Fan, and Brian Joe veer little from the Bennett prototype, to the good of the production. The non-traditional casting isn't as fully exploited as one might expect, with the most notable instances being Asian actors in the role of Morales, Val, and Bobby, and an African-American Judy Turner (acknowledged by a line change in which she admits she wanted to change her name to Tina rather than Lana, as in the original script). Most of the cast is credible, no one embarrasses herself, and a few sparkle.

As the delicate, effeminate Paul, JoJo Abaoag is ideally cast, and wrings every last teardrop out of the character's big confessional monologue. Finding her way at last out of too many chorus lines and bit parts, Crystal Dawn Munkers has the right physical attitude for veteran dancer Cassie, and if her characterization seems overly hard-edged, she earns big points vocally and choreographically with her spotlight "Music and the Mirror." Audrey Fan is an utter delight and crowd pleaser as Val, once rated "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" (a.k.a. "Tits & Ass"), getting laughs even though the shock value of the song's lyrics wore off long ago.

Christopher J. Anderson is a triple-threat newcomer to be reckoned with based on his sassy turn as Richie. Kim Anh Yanda is personable and able-voiced but lacks the spitfire needed for Morales' "Nothing" number, and Susan Hayes indicates her character more than feeling it as Sheila--probably because she's a good decade too young for the role.

I very much enjoyed the interplay between Courtney Bear and Barry L. Snarr as Christine, the girl who couldn't "Sing," and her doting spouse Al, Shane Noel's flamboyantly nutsy Bobby, and Robert Louis Cooper's boisterous strip-club veteran Don. Scot Charles Anderson as director Zach doesn't bring enough of of a showbiz bully attitude to the role. The dancing throughout is quite respectable, preserving the Bennett legacy.

"A Chorus Line," presented by the Repertory Actors Workshop at Broadway Performance Hall, 1625 Broadway at Pine, Seattle. Aug 7-23. (206)364-3283.

August 20, 1998


© 1998 www.backstage.com. This page was reprinted by ReAct with permission from www.backstage.com and David-Edward Hughes.

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