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The Ottawa Citizen
Monday, June 5, 2000

A Chorus Line dances to success

Near-flawless, high-energy show
by Iris Winston

All performers live A Chorus Line at every audition.

That is the key to the success of the multi-award-winning musical, with book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, lyrics by Edward Kleban and music by Marvin Hamlisch, that took Broadway by storm in 1975.

Stories may change, but some 25 years later, every performer on stage and every member of the backstage crew can still identify with the competition, the desire to be chosen, the disappointment of being passed over and the joy of winning portrayed by the finalists in the "line."

So it is little wonder that the high-energy Orpheus Musical Theatre Society production, which opened Friday, reflects a heartfelt understanding of the pressures, pain and pleasure of performance and auditions.

It also demonstrates the talent in this near-flawless production, directed by Susan Dacey, and choreographed by Tami-Lynn Caloia and with musical director Brian Boggs.

The Brechtian opening, showing the 43-strong cast warming up as the audience is seated, is a reminder that this is a show intended to go behind the glamorous front of theatre. But the glamour is there, too. It comes through in the ensemble production number in which Zach (Michael Gareau), the director conducting the auditions, calls for the dancers to move in unison, and they deliver as ordered. It shines brightly in the glitzy finale that set-off a roar of approval from an enthusiastic audience.

Solo numbers and monologues are also effective. As the pert and sassy Val, Nicole Williams presents a showstopping Dance: Ten; Looks: Three. Rejean Dinelle-Mayer's Mike is all fast-footed charm as he taps out I Can Do That. Derek Eyamie's moving rendition of Paul's story is a real tear-jerker.

There are no poor performances here, only good, better and best. Although A Chorus Line was not created as a star vehicle, it does gives each character a moment in the sun. And in this production, each actor is riveting in their moment.

Some of the characterizations here differ markedly from the original Broadway production. Guylaine Roy's beautifully sung version of Nothing is less ironic and less obviously Puerta Rican, for example. Gareau's Zach is more compassionate than previous stage and movie versions -- a choice that makes it tougher to explain the breakup of his relationship with Cassie (Vivian Melsness).

There is the occasional unwise directorial choice, such as the over-production of At the Ballet or the injudicious placement of microphone battery packs, but these are minor quibbles in an exciting production that gives a clear idea of the dreams of stardom and fears of failure in the chorus line.


A Chorus Line Review

by Alvina Ruprecht, CBO Radio
Monday, June 5, 2000

I have to tell you about the new Orpheus production of the Marvin Hamlisch/Michael Bennett breakthrough musical. A CHORUS LINE, now on at Centrepoint. It was terrific!! And I was scared...at first because Orpheus is not known for its dancers...and here people had to know how to dance well. Well, Orpheus has now moved into another realm and I just hope that the Centrepointe audience can appreciate it. I actually saw people leaving during the intermission. This show needs good dancers who can act because it is all about an audition and during that audition, the on stage director, (Michael Gareau) asks each dancer not to perform but to just be natural and tell him about his or her life. So there is no story line per se...perhaps that is what ruffled some people...Each character lets out all his or her own fears and frustrations and I got the feeling that each one of these young performers really related personally to his or her role, bringing us right into the guts of the musical theatre process as well as moments of psychodrama where the confrontation of these young artists dying for the job, creates revealing moments of dramatic tension. This combination of method acting (we are in New York) and musical theatre produces interesting results. The Method is even parodied in a great number sung by Guylaine Roy (who sings the Puerto Rican Diana Morales), one of the most impressive voices of the evening. Never mind my fears, Orpheus called auditions and they put together an extraordinary cast of individuals who bloomed in their individual numbers. Sweeny MacArthur and Karen MacKinnon were so upbeat and funny as Kristine and Alan...where she tells us she can't sing and he props her up, there was Derek Eaymie as a very moving Paul who is also a terrific dancer, there was also Lisa Cox, Nicole Williams, Rejean Dinelle-Mayer, Vivian Melsness, Stephanie Ramphos and so on and so on. Such wonderful young talent!

Credit goes to choreographer Tami-Lynn Caloia, especially for the ensemble numbers..where the precision wasas close to a professional performance that I have ever seen here.

Credit goes as well to Artistic Director Susan Dacey and musical director Brian Boggs. There were a few disappointments however. There is a beautiful number in act one AT THE BALLET which is interrupted with very awkward dancing, clumsy ballet poses, and one weak singing voice that weakened the whole trio. There is Cassie's solo dance in Act II; as good as Vivian Melsness is in the chorus, she doesn't have the same physical energy alone on stage and that moment did not come across well. The leggy Lisa Cox is a dynamite dancer but in her jazzy solo number in Act II, her voice was drowned out by the orchestra..she needs to be better miked. Miking was a bit shaky on opening night in general but maybe they have fixed all that by now. On the whole however, I was totally involved in this musical which also touches on psychodrama...and wait till you see the rousing finale with all the mirrors....there appear to be hundreds of dancers all decked up in glitz and glamour prancing off to the show. A CHORUS LINE a performance that Orpheus can be proud of. Plays till June 10 at Centrepointe.

JOHN: And the mirror effect gives us the audience the impression that we are behind the dancers.

ALVINA: That's right..we are backstage, part of the musical theatre process.....very exciting and a total shift of perspective. A great show!!!