An adaptation of a classic Broadway musical, Theatre Western’s performance of A Chorus Line was big and ambitious. The premise, though, was simple: a group of dancers auditioning for a part in a chorus line in 1970s New York, all with different stories.
Theatre Western went with a bold move this year, choosing a musical with such a strong focus on dancing, even more so than singing. A play about passionate and professional dancers, it could easily have fallen flat if the cast’s dancing wasn’t fantastic — but happily it was.
A highlight was the opening number, “I Hope I Get It.” Framed by the full, booming sound of the band, the song was exciting and the dancing was well choreographed, setting the energetic and often joyful feel of the show.
There was a lot of room for the play to have fun, and it was hilarious at points such as the song “Sing!” where Hayley Tubrett, starring as the vocally un-gifted Kristine, belted out some truly horrible notes.
Another great song was the more serious “The Music and The Mirror,” sung powerfully and emotionally by Taryn Wichenko.
It wasn’t just all song and dance numbers, though; the story was particularly character-focused. The play may have portrayed a very specific situation, but anyone with a big dream could relate to the characters as they revealed their hope and hopelessness alongside their excitement and desperation.
The characters did come across sometimes as caricatures, but that largely worked in a show focused on song, dance and Broadway-style entertainment. In the montage, though, where the music was kept up for an impressively long time, the audience did get more personal glimpses into the characters. From behind the glitzy performance, the characters gradually laid bare their past memories and secrets.
Mostly, though, it was still very funny — with characters bursting forward as they remembered the most awkward parts of their youth, with lines like “When am I gonna grow tits?,” “Every time the teacher called on me I’d be hard” and the fantastically horrified delivery of “Gonorrhea!”
Although the show was fun and relished in dramatic and comedic lines, it also got serious and emotional when focused on individual characters, and moved between these two modes surprisingly easily.
Paul’s compelling monologue focused on his painful past, where his family rejected him after seeing him in a drag show, was phenomenally performed by Robert Popoli. Maybe the most powerful moment in the play, the music stopped altogether and the audience simply watched Popoli speak on the empty stage.
Another emotional moment point of the show was Cassie’s (Wichenko) story, as the experienced dancer pleaded to get a part in the chorus of the show, despite the show's director Zach (played by Colt Forgrave) insisting that Cassie was too good for the chorus. Her exclamation of “I don’t need a hand-out, I need a job!” was another genuinely human moment in the play, which moved between humour and pathos while still focusing on dance.
A Chorus Line was an ambitious project: dramatic, glamorous, high energy, often very funny, sometimes very sad and physically demanding for both the actors and the musicians. But Theatre Western put their all into the show, and they pulled it off.