One Spectacular Sensation: A Chorus Line at Northport’s Engeman
This is one sensational show; get ready to be mesmerized by A Chorus Line at Northport’s Engeman Theater. Not only are the actors in top form, but everything about the show is faultless—from the spectacular dancing and the memorable songs (I Hope I Get It, I Can Do That, Nothing, One, What I Did For Love), to the poignant vignettes shared by each dancer. As the audience, we get a window into each dancer’s soul. Some share more than others, but by the end, we feel we know something about each one. And this theater experience is truly a sensation in movement, in song, and in memorable moments.
A Chorus Line, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and a book by James Kirkwood, Jr., and Nicholas Dante, became the longest running musical in New York theater history until surpassed by Cats. It won nine Tony Awards, seven Drama Desk Awards, the New York Critics’ Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The musical will run at The John W. Engeman Theater through May 10, 2015, and plays the following performance schedule: Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $69 and may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900 or online atEngemanTheater.com, or at the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport.
The setting is the bare stage of a Broadway theater in 1975, where director Zach, played by James Ludwig, is casting for a new musical and will need to narrow down the contenders to four men and four women, out of 17 dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line. As an audience, we feel like we are spying—we aren’t meant to be here—and this aspect has the audience glued to their seats.
Ludwig has credits that include Broadway: Spamalot, Little Shop of Horror; Off Broadway: Two Point Oh, Blue Man Group, Bubbly Black Girl; Tours: Spamalot, 101 Dalmatians; Regional: Period of Adjustment, Raisin Cycle, God of Carnage, A Man’s a Man, A Christmas Carol, The Full Monty; Film/TV: News to Me, Lipstick Jungle, Chappelle’s Show, Ghost Town.
We not only get a rare glimpse into a Broadway audition, but also the lives of those auditioning that unfold before us. The opening number, “I Hope I Get It,” shows how much each one wants the job, and the pressure is palpable.
The director goes a step beyond the “typical” audition that usually requires dancing and/or singing proficiency. They must perform the right dance sequences, but they are also asked to be vulnerable and share something about their lives so the director gets to know them better.
So, as the stories unfold, we hear about young girls who had a need to escape their lives, “At the Ballet.” The characters of Sheila, Bebe, and Maggie are played by Kelly Sheehan, Courtney Moran, and Abby Church, respectively. We hear about broken marriages, too much drinking, infidelity, difficult childhoods, and absent parents—and young girls who want to grow up to be dancers and for whom this audition is a key to transforming their lives. “But everything was beautiful at the ballet; I was happy at the ballet,” they sing. “I was pretty, I was happy, I would love to…at the ballet.”
The dancers tell us that this audition is the chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to do what they have always dreamed about and worked so hard for their entire dancing lives. We learn about adolescence, “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” and homosexuality, being too short, and plastic surgery (“Dance: Ten; Looks: Three”).
And we learn about veteran dancer Cassie, played by Jessica Lee Goldyn, who played the same part in the revival of A Chorus Line on Broadway. Other credits include at the Engeman: Damn Yankees; Broadway: A Chorus Line, On the Town, ADM21; National Tour: Fosse; Regional: Tuck Everlasting, South Pacific, Young Frankenstein, Chicago, Peter Pan, Crazy for You, Legally Blonde; Film & TV: Every Little Step, Smash.
Cassie has had some success already as a dancer and a history with director Zach. He tells her she is too good to be in the chorus, to which she replies, “I need this job.” Goldyn dances brilliantly in the passionate “The Music and the Mirror,” and Zach lets her continue with the audition.
The next dancer, Paul, is called by Zach to share his story privately and we hear a tearful, emotional journey with painful childhood experiences. Actor Omar Garibay is memorable in this role. During a subsequent tap sequence with the rest of the group, Paul falls and injures a bad knee. He is carried off to the hospital, ending his audition. The dancers all realize how careers can end in an instant. If today were the day you had to stop dancing, how would you feel? asks Zach. Maria Cristina Slye, who is perfectly cast as Diana, answers with the beautiful song “What I Did For Love,” communicating that she will have no regrets, and the rest of the dancers join in. “Kiss the day goodbye and point me toward tomorrow. We did what we had to do. Won’t forget, can’t regret, what I did for love.”
Engeman’s dazzling show is full of so much talent and the casting team of Scott Wojcik and Gayle Seay deserves applause, too. Director Drew Humphrey has executed a musical masterpiece; he returns to the Engeman Theater with previous credits as director of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and 42nd Street. Broadway credits for Humphrey: Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.
Choreography is by Dena DiGiacinto, who has an extensive history with A Chorus Line, having played several roles in various productions, including the Broadway revival. Musical director is James Olmstead, who recently directed Evita at Engeman, as well as The Music Man, White Christmas, Sweet Charity, and South Pacific.
The cast also includes:
Sheehan as Sheila, whose credits include Broadway: Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, 42nd Street. Other Credits: No, No, Nanette, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Singing in the Rain, Lady, Be Good, Bye, Bye, Birdie.
Church as Maggie, Broadway: How to Succeed…, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Tours/NY: Billy Elliot 42nd Street, City Center Encores, Irish Repertory Theatre. Regional: Crazy for You, world premiere of Holiday Inn, Kennedy Center, NSMT, Atlanta TOTS, Hangar Theatre.
Alexzandra Sarmiento as Connie: Regional & Tours: A Chorus Line (multiple including the West End Revival at the London Palladium), Cabaret (UK Tour),Fame (UK Tour).
Michael Warrell as Don: Broadway/Workshops: All That Glitters. Tours: Spamalot, FAME, Grease. Regional: On the Town, Grease , Mary Poppins , Hello! My Baby.
Other characters are Patrick Ball as Frank, Rachel Marie Bell as Kristine, Sissy Bell as Judy, Nic Casaula as Roy, Hayden Clifton as Greg, Matthew Couvillon as Larry, Courtney Fekete as Vicki, Omar Garibay as Paul, Francesca Granell as Tricia, Eric Greengold as Mike, Stephanie Israelson as Valerie, Andrew Metzgar as Bobby, Courtney Moran as Bebe, Pj Palmer as Mark, Dj Petrosino as Al, Sari Weinerman as Lois, and Danny Wilfred as Richie.