Running June 15 through June 24 at the Benedum Center, Pittsburgh CLO's production of A CHORUS LINE brings together a stellar cast of Broadway and CLO veterans, and is directed and choreographed by original A CHORUS LINE cast member Baayork Lee. Social media updates seen throughout rehearsal week from the talented ensemble of actors reveal their reverence at having the opportunity to work under the tutelage of Lee, a legend in her own right.
Set in 1975, A CHORUS LINE is a timeless story of nineteen Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line, and is set on the bare stage of a Broadway theatre during an audition for a musical. The simple set consists of huge floor to ceiling mirrors that serve a dual purpose. Visually, they establish the dance studio and the flashy stage setting. But conceptually, they play a bigger role, reinforcing the play's theme of self-reflection in numerous ways.
Zach, the director for whom the dancers are auditioning (Grant Turner), sends the dancers on an often unwilling personal self-exploration by asking them to describe the events that have shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers. Through the course of the play, the individuality and varied backgrounds of each of these colorful characters is revealed in emotional vignettes, told in song and dance.
Each of their vulnerabilities and flaws is revealed as the dancers slowly open up and reflect with raw honesty on troubled childhoods, insecurity, sexual abuse, discovering their sexual orientation, and other life experiences. We learn that Cassie (Nadine Isenegger), now, as all of the others, is an out of work performer, and has had a past as a successful lead dancer. We also learn of her past tumultuous relationship with director Zach, who vehemently resists the thought of considering her for a chorus line spot.
As each character reveals themselves and their own individuality, Gabrielle Ruiz's portrayal of Diana Morales, an outspoken young Puerto Rican, brings the play to a high point at not just one, but two different moments. First, Ruiz recollects her horrible high school acting class in a flawless solo piece called "Nothing"; Ruiz then fronts the entire ensemble in the emotional peak of the play - "What I Did For Love" - a stunningly beautiful reflection on having no regrets about their life decisions, and the pursuit of dance.
Kevin Curtis' high-powered portrayal of a confident, exuberant Richie naturally draws the audience to his character, who at one point proclaims proudly, "I'm black!". His confidence explodes during his feature song, "Gimme the Ball", and Mr. Curtis was recognized as an audience favorite with a roar of applause during the curtain call.
The role of Cassie is perhaps the strongest representation of one of the play's unspoken themes that contrasts individuality with the dancers' willingness to become essentially 'anonymous' to blend into a faceless ensemble, all for the love of performance. The mirrors play an important part in highlighting Cassie's incredible dance skills -- Nadine Isenegger's incredible solo dance in front of a dizzying array of mirrors during "Music and the Mirror" is one of the play's most memorable visual moments.
The story of these individual characters comes to close with the ensemble re-entering the stage in identical sparkling costumes, making it almost difficult to identify one personality from the other. They perform as "one, singular sensation", as the set fades to black.
A CHORUS LINE runs through June 24, and tickets are available online at pittsburghCLO.org, by calling 412-456-6666 or at the Box Office atTheater Square. Groups of 10 or more enjoy exclusive discounts and specialty packages. Call our Group Sales Hotline at 412-325-1582 for more information. Visit pittsburghCLO.org for further information.
Check out photos from the production (credit Matt Polk) below!
Cast of Pittsburgh CLO's A Chorus Line