After November’s production of Almost, Maine, a personal and intimate piece about the vignettes going on in a small town, the Limelight players return with a production completely opposite of November’s. Where Almost, Maine was quiet and profound, A Chorus Line is bombastic and glamorous. It’s a grandiose play that gives everybody in the cast a chance to shine and kept the audience clapping and roaring until the curtain closed. I was overjoyed to see the immense talent we have at MHS in a production that has style to spare.
As the curtain opens, we are immediately set in an intense audition led by pressing director Zach (Danny Hayes) and his assistant, Lara (Leah Green). After stealing the show as Donny Hayesworth in the critically acclaimed mass media project, The Fountain Case, Hayes proves his amazing acting chops once again as he demands the stage with hard hitting questions to those auditioning. He remains stoic as he tries to push them to their limits physically and emotionally. Greens also turns in great work as the vicious assistant who plays off of Hayes perfectly.
Also during this opening scene, we are introduced to the great choreography by the whole cast. The months of hard work and preparation is showed off in these intricate dance numbers done in unison and that high energy of dancing is kept throughout the entire show. I was in awe of the stamina this crew had, especially during the extended montage sequences as they go from one number to another with ease. These montage parts also highlights the impeccable timing as one person will be cut off as another person begins their story. So many reasons why the whole cast works so damn well can be found in these extended sequences where everybody is on stage.
After the opening number, “I Hope I Get It”, each character gets the chance to the tell the story of their lives as Zach is looking for the details that can’t be found on a headshot or resume. Judah Engel starts us off as Mike Costa as Engel, in an assured manner, launches into his story about how his sister began his love for dancing as shown in the number, “I Can Do That”. Engel’s dancing perfectly captures the story of Costa and how seeing his sister’s dance classes got him to where he was today. Next up is Bobby Mills played by Larry Toyter. With a devilish smile and an attitude made for the stage, Toyter basks every moment the spotlight is on him in a character that could talk for hours on end. One of the biggest laughs of the night came from Toyter’s Bobby uttering the line “to commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant.”
We are then treated to a pitch perfect, ice cold performance of Sheila Bryant played by Vivian Murphy. Her deadpan delivery about taking valium or how “excited” she was to turn thirty were some of the funniest moments of the night. Murphy then brings humanity to the character with a powerful rendition of “At The Ballet” alongside Jessica Steir as Bebe Benzenheimer and Sydney Wolfe as Maggie Winslow. All three ladies get a verse to show off their beautiful singing voices and belt out how the beauty the ballet was a safe haven from their real lives. After that dominant number from Murphy, Steir, and Wolfe, we got one of the most crowd pleasing numbers of the night courtesy of Luke Wrobelwski and Natalie Aris. With “Sing!”, Aris as Kristine Urich (her married name is DeLuca) gleefully explains her issues of never being able to sing with Wroblewski as Al DeLuca right there by her side. With great chemistry and timing, Aris and Wroblewski pull off one of the hardest songs of the night like professionals.
With the first Montage, “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love”, David Jordan and Tori Sonza get their time in the spotlight as Mark Anthony and Connie Wong respectively. Jordan brings his comedic chops to the forefront with an extensive story about how he thought he had Gonorrhea while Sonza’s peppiness works perfectly as she describes the struggles of being 4’10” (cheerleading didn’t work out because the pom poms were bigger then her). Afterwards, Danielle Benna brings us one of the best singular performances of the night with “Nothing”. It’s a stunning with no complex lighting just to put Benna’s voice on display as she recounts some bad experiences with acting classes.
Next up is for Judy Turner (Alana Wolf), Greg Gardner (Kyle Farscht), and Richie Walters (Matthew Green) to tell their life stories in in the fourth montage. All three comically nail their parts from Wolf talking about seeing her first dead body with no context and pleading for validation about practicing kissing on her best friend to Farscht going into great detail about his erections in school and finally, Green explaining how close he was to being a kindergarten teacher.
We now move on to what I consider the highlight of the night: Alexa Kerner’s show stopping performance of “Dance: Ten, Looks: 3”. The sheer fearlessness and confidence here was unmatched. Kerner, as Val Clark, launched into a story explicitly talking about her plastic surgery endeavors (which is putting it in the most scholarly way I possibly can). The showmanship on the stage by Kerner had the crowd roaring with applause by the end.
In on of the most memorable duos of the night, Melanie Albert and Danny Hayes have a dynamic and ferocious back and forth revealing the history between Zach and Cassie Ferguson. Albert then goes into a dazzling dance number with “The Music and The Mirror”. So much is told through the movements of Albert after her heated exchange with Hayes. The two fight more afterwards as they both up their intensity in the best possible way. You feel the history between these two by their bitter attitudes toward one another.
Finally, the ensemble is rounded out by Zachary Fox and Krueger-Rhodes Award winner Nick Ryan. Fox, as Don Kerr, rambles on about his time working in a strip club while has a 10 minute, unbroken monologue about cross dressing that’ll break your heart. I was floored by the emotional depths Ryan went that was capped off with the climax of him sobbing uncontrollably. Ryan perfects a scene so different from the rest of the play. He should act in movies. He’d probably be good (probably…).
Overall, I was enamored by the immense talent of this fabulous ensemble and the eclectic characters they inhabited. Entertaining is an understatement. So bravo to all involved including the stage crew, creative team, and pit conductor and players. This truly was a singular sensation for the ages.