Theater review: 'A Chorus Line' reclaims its energy at Fair Park Music Hall

Written by DSM Columnists on Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 8:07 AM

11:55 PM CDT on Tuesday, July 7, 2009
By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News
ltaitte@dallasnews.com

A Chorus Line is a unique musical, a perfect musical. I'm not sure, in retrospect, it's one of the great musicals.
The tour based on the recent New York revival arrived at Fair Park Music Hall on Tuesday. It has restored the show's vivid energy and sharp characterizations, and it makes nearly as good a case for the piece as possible. To paraphrase one of Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban's songs, it scores dance 10, acting 10, singing maybe a six.

At one point the longest running show in Broadway history, A Chorus Line grew out of workshop-style discussions organized by director-choreographer Michael Bennett. He asked professional dancers, gypsies from Broadway chorus lines, to talk about their lives. Then he, with librettists James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, made a show out of their stories.

The musical, without an intermission, is built around a day of auditions. It also takes its shape from the process of putting together a big production number, from the first rudimentary steps to the high-strutting, show-stopping climax.

The personalities of the individual characters are indelible, but over the years productions have tended to blur or exaggerate them. Bob Avian and Baayork Lee, both part of the original process in 1974 and '75, have whipped things back into shape beautifully.

Emily Fletcher, for instance, nails Sheila's aggressive sensuality without making her too hard, and Bryan Knowlton, as Paul in the first week of the current run, keeps his dignity while making his sometimes shocking self-revelations.

I've never seen a completely satisfactory Cassie. Robyn Hurder at least dances the role better than most. Part of the problem is inherent: The starring role in this musical is that of a woman who keeps insisting she doesn't have star power or star pretensions.

Hamlisch's tunes retain their hummability, albeit in very '70s fashion. Kleban's lyrics tell the dancers' stories with considerable wit. Most of all, Bennett knew how to build a dance number.

Still, a nagging little voice keeps telling me that a really great musical should have characters who interact with each other and should be about something other than getting a job, even if the people do their jobs for love.

PLAN YOUR LIFE Through July 19 at Fair Park Music Hall. 130 mins. $15 to $85. Ticketmaster at 214-631-2787, http://www.ticketmaster.com/.

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