Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Chorus Line Dances into the Morgan-Wixson

MW - A Chorus Line

A bare stage, a wall of mirrors, a group of dancers, and an audition. These are the essential elements in A Chorus Line, now playing at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica. The Tony Award-winning musical takes us behind the scenes of the glitz and glamour of the stage to show the desperation, drive, passion and love that dancers have for their work.

It is based on interviews that Michael Bennett (the original director/choreographer) conducted with Broadway dancers - interesting because the task of the chorus members is not to stand out with their own personality or style, but to blend in with all the other dancers in the chorus and let the star shine.

This time, however, Bennett wanted to find out who they were, how they got started dancing and what made them passionate about their work, in essence giving them an opportunity to be more than just a photograph and a number in an audition.

The original production featured music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Bob Avian also acted as co-choreographer on the show. Morgan-Wixson’s production is directed and musical directed by Anne Gesling and choreography (based on the original) is by Hector Guerrero, a faculty member of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

From the very top of the show that begins with the famous words, “Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...again,” we’re thrown into the frenzy of the audition world, with a stage full of dancers competing for one of only eight jobs. “God, I hope I get it” sing the dancers, “I need this job, oh God I need this show.” Some of the dancers are young, looking for their first break; others, like Cassie (Ashley Matthews) have been around the block and are hoping for a chance at redemption – to be able to do the one thing in the world they love most…dance.

And from here Zach (Michael Heimos) will hold their future in his hands. He makes the first cut and we begin to hear their stories, starting with Mike, top-notch triple threat Erik Bradley singing “I Can Do That,” who learns to tap by replacing his sister in class when she refuses to go one day. Ballet was the refuge for Sheila (Elizabeth Hunter) and Maggie (Michelle Akeley), who turned to it to compensate for a lack of fatherly warmth, and Bebe (Brittany Sindicich) took ballet because it was the only place she felt pretty.

Poor Kristine (Kaeli Carr) is tone-deaf, and her husband Al (Julian McCleary) finishes all of her lines for her in “Sing.” Greg (Jayson Farrar-Puls) talks about discovering that he was gay, a cynical Don (Steve Weber) remembers what it was like working in a strip club, while Diana (Amy Coles) tells a story about her awful acting teach Mr. Karp in one of the show’s most well-known numbers, “Nothing.” Paul (Eric De Anda) has the hardest time opening up about his past and breaks down as he finally talks about his early drag show days as a teenager.

Morgan Wixson A Chorus LIne
Jacob Nixon

Two other cast members deserve special mention; an electrifying Jacob Nixon as Richie, on fire in his featured solo, “Gimme the Ball,” and knockout Erin Brittney Green as Val, whose “Dance: 10; Looks: 3” is always a crowd pleaser.

The cast does a fine job with the challenging choreography and in the moments when the dancers are dancing, the show takes flight. Simplicity is the key to the monologues, however, and at times the heavy-handed delivery of the material gets in the way of the honesty needed to make these characters’ revelations really real. Still, A Chorus Line makes for an enjoyable evening of theatre with plenty of flair, and when it all comes together in the end for the finale, there is nothing better.

The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM through July 31st at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Boulevard (Pico @ 27th Street), Santa Monica, CA 90405 For more information please visit

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