If there’s one takeaway from “A Chorus Line,” it is best summed up by Cassie when she describes her fellow dancers to their director, exclaiming, “They’re all special!” The classic musical — set during an unusually personal audition for the chorus line of an unnamed show — reveals that even seemingly interchangeable members of a chorus line are actually unique as each character comes forth to tell his or her life story through song and dance.
The student production of the musical, directed by Elle Ramel ’11 and Kaley Sullivan ’10, at the Off-Broadway Theater certainly sticks to this premise. While the group numbers look and sound good (it’s hard not to find a group of talented singers on this a capella-fevered campus), these are hardly the best moments of the show.
Each of the auditioning dancers is screwed up in his or her own special way. Yael Zinkow ’12’s Sheila is deliciously abrasive as an aggressive maneater. Daniel Reardon ’13 portrays movie star-wannabe Bobby in a way that is unsettling in its similarity to those kids you went to theater camp with. When he recounts being picked on in school, try to resist the temptation to respond, “Oh, I bet you got slammed into lockers by your teachers.” They do the big numbers, sure, but this show’s really about letting the actors experiment with these characters’ quirks.
“A Chorus Line” really hits its stride when Richie, played by Alexander Caron ’13, steps up for his high energy performance of a song about almost becoming a kindergarten teacher. This number is fun and not just because of Caron’s out-of-place hippie getup. And, of course, it’s impossible to talk about the musical without mentioning the “tits and ass” girl: Val (Courtney Grafton ’12), who sings about the miraculous boost plastic surgery has given her career. Grafton’s a legitimately good singer, and this number’s just plain hilarious.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the show involved no singing or dancing. Dan Amerman ’10 owns the role of Paul, a quiet dancer whose story comes to light in a scene between him and the director, Zach, while the other dancers take a break offstage. In the small theater, the actors are close enough to touch, yet the audience has clearly broken in on a private moment. While Amerman tells Paul’s story, he doesn’t speak to the back wall, or stare into his spotlight or pace the stage. It’s just a quiet, emotional conversation between two guys; throughout his monologue, Amerman’s doesn’t break eye contact with his director. For a moment, we forget that this is Musical Theater — not that we don’t love song and dance, but the choice to keep Paul’s retelling of his early career in a drag show as undramatic as possible is a smart one. Amerman takes to this grounded approach to stage acting so well that afterward, it’s kind of hard to revert to the garish sparkle of the kick-line.