From the first “push-turn-pivot-touch!” Eight O’Clock Theatre’s opening night performance of “A Chorus Line” set a pace demanding almost as much from the audience as from the performers. The 1975 musical by Michael Bennett (music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban) portrays a group of dancers auditioning for chorus line positions. The director, Zach (Scott Hamilton), asks them to tell him about themselves.
Keeping track of the 20-some characters meant staying on one’s toes, even with the help of subtle costuming defining each. From long-legged, pristine Sheila (Kristine Weinstein) in her austere white leotard to conflicted Paul (Fadi Akhtar) hiding under a shapeless T-shirt and jeans, the dancers put themselves on the line sharing in word, in song, and in a variety of dance styles their journeys to this point.
Their stories – the sometimes earthy tales of mostly second-stringers who live to dance and the lengths and the depths to which they’ve gone just for the job of providing a backdrop (”with every arm angled the same”) for “One” star player who has some elusive magic they don’t have – are, if we are honest, our own stories. Is there anyone, regardless of religious belief or station in life, who hasn’t found himself pleading “Please, God, I need this job” or struggled to reconcile her dreams and fantasies with the less-than-perfect body she came packaged in?
Which may be why “A Chorus Line” played for almost 15 years on Broadway, continues to be produced on stages around the world, and will be returning to the Great White Way in 2006.
EOT’s production uses an impressive array of local Bay area talent who dedicated the last 10 weeks to learning routines, lyrics, and lines.
“This is all for love,” said director Rocco Morabito, by day a Safety Harbor makeover artist. Morabito designed Chita Rivera’s hairstyle when she played Velma Kelly in the original production of “Chicago” and has worked with a long list of notables.
Choreographer Ronnie DeMarco, a Safety Harbor massage therapist, has a list of credits including Broadway performances, television work, and teaching positions around the world.
Chrissy Dobrowski (Morales) “reached right down to the bottom of my soul” when she sang, and Suzanne Dani’L’s (Cassie) duet with herself (”The Music and the Mirror”) was lovely. Anita and Seth Travaglino (Kristine and Al) provoked laughter with “Sing!” as did James Grenelle (Bobby), Danny Harrigan (Mark), Corey Horton (Mike), and Brittany McDonald (Val) in their spots. Hayden Milanes (Richie) – a last-minute replacement due to Hurricane Wilma blowing schedules awry – rocked.
Unfortunately, some of the rapid libretto didn’t carry well over the orchestra and other sound glitches intruded on the performance. Lighting was gorgeous with a lost spot or two. Minor flaws in an otherwise satisfying production.
“A Chorus Line” continues through Nov. 13. Tickets are $22; $11 for students 19 and under. EOT cautions “adult theme and language, not recommended for children.” Eight O’Clock Theatre is in Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. For tickets, call 587-6793.