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Stage Reviews : 'A Chorus Line'

October 03, 1986|CHALON SMITH

Regional Repertory Theatre's "A Chorus Line" is a bit out of step: The choreography is often quirky and the singing is spotty. Still, a few artful performances overcome much of these troubles and make it a fairly enjoyable diversion.

This musical paean to "gypsies"--young dancers who wander from show to show offering their skills like wares--is a thin, almost plotless piece of theater that mixes the high stepping with some personality-revealing pathos. The audience is taken to an audition where several dancers fight for eight chorus spots. Zach, the choreographer responsible for picking the chorus, goes down the line asking intrusive questions and demanding answers. We're suppose to care about the dancers and their commitment to performing.

When it opened on Broadway in 1975, "A Chorus Line" was hailed as a compelling inside look at the making of musicals and the spunky youngsters who inhabit them. It still has some of that charm, but, unfortunately, it has not aged well. What may have seemed an incisive character study in the '70s now looks remarkably cliched. The portrayal of homosexuals is especially tired: One is troubled by life out of the closet and another proudly struts his sexuality.

Despite the stereotypes, "A Chorus Line" can come to life if the key roles feature performers who can really sing and dance. There are a few in this production who can do one or the other, and at least one who can do both. Renae Larsen Davis as Cassie, the one-time star willing to accept the anonymity of the chorus because of a sputtering career, is an accomplished dancer and polished singer; she can act, too. Davis effortlessly shows Cassie's need to perform, particularly in her graceful dance solo that opens the second act.

Of the strong singers (half the cast is able; it's a little iffy with the rest), Melissa Fuller as Maggie is perhaps the best; her voice has range and a rich clarity. Suzanne Christine as Val infuses her songs with refreshing humor and pluck, especially in Val's homage to plastic surgery and a bountiful bosom, "Dance: 10, Looks: 3." On the acting side, Noah William Penn captures Paul's confusion over his sexual orientation with affecting reserve, and Mark Slama's Bobby is appropriately goofy in an arty sort of way.

Regrettably, Don Mirault is disappointing as Zach. He is generally so impatient with the dancers that his sensitive moments as father confessor to Paul seem out of character. It also means there is a forced quality to the supposedly tender moments when he attempts to reconcile with Cassie, his former live-in lover.

In addition, the production stumbles quite a bit in the group choreography. Patti Colombo has done a good job with the solos--Davis' second-act number is a fine example--but gives the cast too much to do when it is dancing en masse. The limb-jutting flourishes come across as merely eccentric and distracting. Colombo has, however, put it together for the top-hatted finale, a simple and rousing capper.

"A Chorus Line" continues through Oct. 12 at the Forum Theater in Yorba Linda, 4175 Fairmont Blvd., Yorba Linda. Call (714) 996-4195 for more information.

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