Smithtown Matters: Theater Review – “A Chorus Line”


“A Chorus Line”

Produced by: The John W. Engeman Theater – Northport

Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur

“A Chorus Line” opened at New York’s Shubert Theatre in the summer of 1975 and, after logging more than six thousand performances, it became for a time the longest-running musical in Broadway history. The show, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, finally closed in the spring of 1990. It had garnered a dozen Tony nominations … winning nine! As if that were not achievement enough, “A Chorus Line” also nabbed the 1976 Pulitzer for Drama, and the Marvin Hamlisch triumph is still The Great White Way’s sixth most durable show ever.

The story (whose all-important book was written by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante) delves into the aspirations, fears, and confessions, of seventeen dancers auditioning for some ‘forthcoming New York musical.’ Since all the action takes place on a bare stage in a Broadway theater, the easiest job for anyone on the production team is that assigned to Set Designer, Jon Collins, an artist who has proven time and again that he can handle anything requested of him.

The Choreographer’s task (undertaken and achieved masterfully by Dena Digiacinto) is much more demanding, however. Indeed, the dancing synchronization required in this play is a challenge, as they say, ‘for the ages!’

As for Costume Design: “A Chorus Line” is an inherently flamboyant affair that shows us exactly how an assortment of young people might plausibly be dressed as they present themselves for evaluation by a big-time musical producer. Accordingly, stylist Tristan Raines uses the show’s colorfully clad dancers to create an ever-shifting, constantly pleasing, pastel mosaic. What results is sheer magic … especially since the dazzling troupe is so expertly illuminated by Cory Pattak’s ingenious lighting. Veteran director Drew Humphrey could not have asked for a more adept team to assist him.

“A Chorus Line” attendees shouldn’t conclude early on that what they’re in for in this Engeman production is merely a group of eager young hoofers doing their thing in vibrant terpsichorean rehearsal togs. Actually, that would have been enough to make for a superb theatrical experience. But as we watch, the musical builds beyond our wildest expectations … until ultimately it becomes an unforgettable production that is lavish in every sense of the word. Credit costumer Raines, who dresses the dancers perfectly, first in appropriate tryout gear, and ultimately in the lush, matching outfits that mark the musical’s vivid climax. The resulting contrast is breathtaking.

It’s a radiant New York show through and through, this ‘Chorus Line’ phenomenon that’s currently mounted at Northport’s comfortable Engeman Theater. What, after all could be more representative of ‘The Big Apple’ a few miles west of us, than a diverse group of stage-struck performers seeking nothing more than an opportunity to strut their stuff before the world’s most sophisticated theater audience?

I cannot assign superlatives to any of the performers who’ll dance their way into your hearts between now and May 10th. To attempt such a thing would be unfair, even if it were possible. Nor can this critic point to a weak link in The Engeman’s “Chorus Line” … there simply isn’t one. Let it be said only that if anyone from the original cast of this groundbreaking musical were mystically to find themselves viewing the show presently being resurrected in Northport, they would likely turn to the person in the next seat and proudly say, “I was part of that award-winning ensemble in the 70’s … and these young men and women have it down cold.”

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