'Chorus Line' Cast Overcomes Obstacles In Energetic Playhouse Show

By: Ellen Petry Whalen

“A Chorus Line” explores the trials and tribulations encountered by professional dancers aiming for Broadway. After securing their coveted roles, the Cape Playhouse’s professional cast had some added hardships with this production—two days without power due to the tornado; an unexpected change in musical directors; and a blackout during their rehearsal time in NYC. In the end, the ensemble demonstrated grit, resiliency, and amazing talents, culminating in a sensational musical production.

“A Chorus Line” opened in 1975 and ran until 1990, becoming the longest-running Broadway show until it was dethroned by “Cats,” in 1997. 

The story revolves around a Broadway audition, set in 1975, with 22 dancers vying for eight spots (“I Hope I Get It”). Between practicing dance numbers, the demanding but not uncaring director Zach (Jeffrey Schecter) encourages the auditionees to talk about themselves instead of reading lines. 

“Twinkle Toes” Mike, charmingly played by Brett Thiele, is the first to share how he was drawn to dance at a very young age while watching his sister’s dance class. He then impresses the audience with his dance moves in the lively number “I Can Do That.” 

The 40-year-old dancer Sheila (Tracy Jai Edwards) with a tough exterior, talks about her dysfunctional childhood. Together, she and two dancers—Bebe (Kyra Christopher) and Maggie (Kim McClay)—poignantly sing “At the Ballet,” which describes how they used ballet as an escape from their difficult early years.

The nervous Kristine (Darien Crago) reluctantly admits she can’t sing, which leads to her tenderhearted husband Al (Manuel Santos) comically finishing her sentences by singing the last word, in the funny, up-tempo song “Sing!” 

In a very touching scene, Michael John Hughes pulls at the audience’s heartstrings as Paul, a gay Puerto Rican, who couldn’t come out to his parents. Val, played by Madison Finney, sings a hilariously entertaining “Dance: 10; Looks: 3,” where she explains how plastic surgery, not her talented dancing, gets her jobs. Portraying Diana, Hillary Porter leads the company in the well-known “What I Did for Love,” with her stunning voice.

During rehearsals in NYC, Sara Esty had the good fortune of working with Donna McKechnie, who won a Tony for originating the role of Cassie. Out of all the dancers, Cassie is the only one talented enough to have stepped out of the chorus line into a lead role, but even with her gift, she hasn’t worked in two years. Esty is a powerhouse singer and an elegant dancer which she showcases in Cassie’s emotional and mesmerizing number “The Music and the Mirror.” 

Unlike some directors, Joyce Chittick knows dance firsthand, having performed in the national tour of “Cats” while in high school. Chittick and choreographer Rick Faugno create an emotionally charged musical that pulsates with energy from start to finish. The casts’ spectacular footwork is underscored by musical director Garrett Taylor’s dynamic 12-piece orchestra. 

The simple set showcases a bare rehearsal stage with a mirrored wall that rotates to reveal a backstage set. Kirk Bookman’s creative lighting, especially in the last number, heightens the musical’s over-the-top energy. Molly Walz’ '70s dance costumes bring disco to mind.

As one watches these gifted actors playing struggling dancers (a number of whom were in the show's national tour), it is hard not to imagine the real challenges they face at cut-throat auditions today. Even though the musical is over 40 years old, the story is highly relevant for the actors and heartfelt for viewers. 

On opening night, the audience spontaneously cheered as the electrical power came back on, seconds before the show started (the theater was using a limited-capacity generator). That same energy was mirrored by the cast, which ultimately culminated in the show stopping dance number “One.” 

Be forewarned, due to the fast-selling pre-show ticket sales, the Playhouse added another performance to “A Chorus Line,” but it’s still likely this show will sell out, as did their last.


“A Chorus Line”
At The Cape Playhouse in Dennis
Through Aug. 3
Information and reservations: 877-385-3911