By Michelle Barker
It’s a show about what happens before the show can happen. 17 dancers stand on a white line downstage and wait anxiously to be told whether or not they’ve made the cut.
I’m going to be honest, I went into the Lower Ossington Theatre tonight without ever having seen A Chorus Line and expecting to hate it. I don’t love musical theatre. I’ve noted it before and I’ll probably note it again… it’s not my thing. And the way my roommate, Rodney (a dancer himself), described the show, I thought I would be forced to hide eye rolls for the duration of its two-hour running time.
But I am here to proclaim to all of you Mooney on Theatre readers: I love A Chorus Line.
Now that that’s out of the way, for those of you that are unfamiliar with the plot of A Chorus Line, it tells the story of a group of dancers in their 20s and 30s auditioning for chorus parts in an upcoming show. Each dancer takes a turn telling parts of their life stories, mostly relating to their experiences in theatre, to the director who is seated in the audience. The experiences that they share are funny, sad, moving, and painfully real, particularly for anyone who has experienced life in the performing arts.
This particular production of A Chorus Line was presented by the Toronto Youth Theatre. The company was made up of around 20 (very) young people, the majority of whom are under 20 years of age. Now, anyone who has seen A Chorus Line knows that the characters are very deep and very difficult for any actor. They require an incredible depth of emotion and the ability to sing, dance, and act.
With this in mind, I felt that some of the roles might have been a bit too much of a stretch for young people between the ages of 14 and 18. Some moments simply weren’t earned and some of the deeper and darker plotlines I felt fell a little bit flat.
From the perspective of a dancer (and one who has seen A Chorus Line a billion times), Rodney was satisfied with the execution of most of the choreography but noted that a few of the principles were hitting the movements like professionals. He also noted that the specificity of the choreography is hard for any dancer, but the company made a noble attempt at conquering it.
Having said that, a few of the young actors completely blew me away. I love going to shows put on by young performers, if only because it’s exciting to see up-and-coming talent, especially when one or two stand out as individuals who are truly meant to be in the world of theatre.
Amanda Levine, Belinda Corpuz, and Jada Rifkin were the standout powerhouse females in the cast. They are young women who need to perform for the rest of their lives or else there is no justice in the world. Seriously. Thomas Goetz and David Klein were the standout males for Rodney and I. Goetz has one of the most effortlessly mellifluous voices that I’ve heard in musical theatre in a long time. Klein, (at a startling 14 years of age; I screamed aloud in the front of house when I read his age in his bio) is inevitably going to be a triple-threat, force-to-be-reckoned-with by the time he hits his 20s.
Rodney and I both felt that the space was a bit too small for this particular show. I tensed up every time a group number started for fear of the dancers accidentally kicking or punching each other in the confined space.
A Chorus Line is a beautiful show. The juxtaposition of the realistic and moving character stories to the classic, sometimes campy music makes the show one of the most deeply satisfying experiences for which an audience can hope. I left the theatre with so much invested in each character that I was physically exhausted. And I consider that to be a sign of a great show.
Definitely worth seeing. Check it out before the end of its run.
–A Chorus Line is playing until Sunday, February 27th at the Lower Ossington Theatre
– Performances are at 7:30 pm with a 3:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday
– Tickets are available online
– Tickets are between $25.50 and $35.00 with student tickets for $19.50
Photo of company