The New York dancers who talked into a tape recorder for the rapacious director Michael Bennett at the Nickolaus Exercise Middle on E. 23rd Road in 1974 at the moment are, on common, greater than 70 years previous. Sorry for that shock.
However their stories — “On the Ballet,” “Nothing,” “Dance: Ten; Appears: Three” — have transcended the mortality of the tellers. I swear, there is something about seeing the opening of “A Refrain Line” — a bit I find myself reviewing each couples of years — that is in contrast to some other with regards to its emotional sucker-punch.
That’s especially the case when, as in the new Porchlight Music Theatre production, you see an enormous, principally non-Equity company of young dancers, including Chicago performers a critic doesn’t keep in mind seeing earlier than, and also you’re at the Ruth Page Dance Middle, the Gold Coast equal of the Nickolaus Train Middle. In case you’re seated shut on the Ruth Page, as I used to be on Friday night time, you need to lookup on the performers, all standing there in an extended line, shivering barely, awaiting judgement on levels each actual and meta-theatrical. Reviewing “A Chorus Line,” especially in an period where we’re extra conscious of the human costs of working with the sensible tyrants of the humanities, is all the time, for me, a uniquely uncomfortable expertise, even loving the present as I do. The stakes, by some means, feel inevitably private.
There are two sorts of productions of “A Chorus Line.” One sort will get the which means of the present: the exposing of the inhuman mixture of warmth, impermeability, courage, fortitude, resilience and happenstance that it takes to succeed as a Broadway dancer. The opposite variety doesn’t. Sort two can typically be technically a greater show — the setting for “A Refrain Line,” in any case, requires that the dancing typically be lower than wonderful, given the strain everyone is beneath and the presence of those that are there totally on a wing and a prayer. And chorus youngsters are typically dancers who sing, which is not the identical factor as lead vocalists. Focus an excessive amount of on the technical and you lose the purpose of the show.
So it issues not much to me that elements of director Brenda Didier’s production are a tad pitchy, that not each execution of Christopher Chase Carter’s relentlessly formidable choreography is secure, that the famous mirrors really feel more like cling-wrap. What matters, and what’s delivered here with genuinely uncommon depth, truly greater than some other Chicago “Chorus Line” in years, is the requisite mixture of want and vulnerability, the sense…