A Chorus Line is one of the most successful musicals of all time, presenting the gruelling, somewhat demeaning and challenging life of performers in auditions. The show follows 17 Broadway dancers vying for a spot on a chorus line, all desperate for work or their big break, and all talented and different in a range of ways.
This was my first time seeing the show, and my perception of is that it is a difficult show, given its 2 hour and 15 minute running time, with hardly any break for the talented performers. Heavy on dance numbers, strong solo performances and big chorus numbers, the energy required for this show is huge and the cast deliver it in spades. It’s a little and sort of stuffy venue, and the cast are dripping from exertion by half way through the one act show. It is an ambitious show to put on by Beaumaris Theatre Inc, who has a strong record of delivering quality amateur theatre productions, in a range of formats, sizes and styles, embracing kids’ shows, plays and more.
The cast are a charismatic bunch of performers and dancers. Stand out performers are Charlotte Robins as Diana, leading the cast during “What I Did For Love” and her wonderful, emotional solo number “Nothing “; Katie White as Cassie, who’s breakout number “Music and the Mirror” is an accomplished and fantastic dance piece; Alicia Loftus’ emotional and guarded performance of “At the Ballet”. Aynsley Mitchell and Joe Melhem shine as Kristine and Al in their adorable couple number, “Sing”, and Liam McWhinney as Paul, opening up about his early drag career, coming out and his troubled childhood, could bring a tear to any audience member’s eye.
Each member of the cast delivers their performance with conviction, passion and with a smile on their face – everyone in the cast are up there to have a great time, and enjoy putting on a show. It may be the excitement of opening night, or nerves, but the cast mumble their way through some of the dialogue, and the overlapping, crazy montages of the storylines get very confusing and hard to follow fast.
It’s not often that too big is a bad thing, but for most of this show, the company have aimed high and only slightly missed the mark. It’s disappointing that for their 277th major production, Beaumaris Theatre isn’t more familiar with their venue on Wells Road. Given this is their primary space to perform, it’s possible they didn’t spend enough time rehearsing in the actual venue with the stage they were performing on. The choreography, while lovely and bright and bold, is too big for the stage, and there are too many performers on stage most of the time, leading to performers running into each other, or actually dancing into the walls.
The sound is overly too large and brassy for the space, and having 18 performers tap dancing at once, while delightful to look at, and very well performed by all, was almost painful to listen to as it echoed around the space. The music of the show is well known, and well performed by the band, though they were also a little too loud for this small space. For much of the show, the performers appear to strain and push themselves to pitchy levels to be heard over the band, especially solo lines in chorus numbers, which are impossible to hear. When the whole cast and band is together, they are a force to be reckoned with, with a brassy and over the top sound.
Lighting is often slow to catch up with the fast moving actors and choreography, and often, the actors when they are to the sides of the stage, or too far back or forward, are performing in near darkness. Often the lighting is used well, including in “Music and the Mirror”, and embraces regular changes, many colours and different uses of front, side and back lighting, but more often than not the lighting changes colours and speeds for the hell of it, instead of indicating changes in, or building a particular setting or space. The follow spots are slow on the cues, but this may be just due to opening night, or not enough time rehearsing or teching with the lighting. Overall, the concept of the lighting is good, but often simple and crisper can be better than a myriad of wild colours and large patches of darkness.
Set is a tricky one for this show – the show is, in fact, set on a bare Broadway stage. This show included the use of a small catwalk to engage further into the audience, which could have been used more, but played well into the idea of director and choreographer’s space, and the auditionee’s space in an audition room. The clever use of mirrors, best used in “Music in the Mirror”, Cassie’s big number, to show her from all sides, but this can often be distracting with the musical director’s monitor clearly visible in the mirror, as well as many of the lighting reflections being reflected back onto the audience.
Costumes and bright and bold in brilliant colours, but aren’t particularly flattering, in the way that late 80s/ early 90s dancewear wasn’t always. Each performer is presented in a different bright hue, making it slightly easier to keep track of the large cast A Chorus Line boasts. The quick costume change to the gaudy, magnificent gold costumes for the finale is incredibly well managed, with performers returning to the stage almost instantly.
The energy as part of this performance, and the joy each performer clearly has performing this show is wonderful – everyone is having a wonderful time performing, and the audience enjoy watching it, even with the long running time. Catch A Chorus Line at Beaumaris Theatre until it takes it’s final bows on 18 March. Tickets at: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=257426