A Chorus Line at Cassidy is an Entertaining and Surprising Treat

Cassidy Theatre
Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

I love dancing. For me, there is nothing better than watching fully committed dancers busting out dynamic choreography. So imagine my excitement as I attended A Chorus Line at Cassidy Theatre. Whenever a community theatre produces the show, there is a bit of trepidation as to whether a volunteer theatre can round up the talent it takes to put on a formidable production, due to the intense dancing requirements of the show. It takes a special production team to lure in and assemble the right cast, and luckily for Cassidy Theatre, the team of Director/Choreographer Kristin Netzband and Musical Director Mike Caraffi is the winning ticket. They are currently the Queen of Hearts of Cassidy Theatre. With their guidance, this show is infused with positive and kinetic energy that leads to an entertaining outing. The show is paced well, the dances are kick ass. The choreography honors both the original choreography, and also provides amended moves in line with the original intent and style of the piece. The band is hot, and the trumpets rip into the score, just as ferociously as I do when I get ahold of a Señor Rico's Rice Pudding from Aldi's on the weekend.

A Chorus Line was developed by listening to taped interviews of dancers that were not looking for the solo spotlight, but were looking to be a part of the light as an ensemble member, making a living wage, and doing what they loved. Each person shared their personal journey, and using that information, the workshops began, and the show slowly started to take shape. This storytelling was augmented by the immense musical talents of Marvin Hamlisch, while Edward Kleban provided the lyrics, and James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante added the book. The work paid off. The 1976 Tony Award for Best Musical, Book, Score, Director, and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Hello: Awards: Looks: Fabulous.

The show opens with the ensemble number "I Hope I Get It," a raucous and demanding dance audition, where only the strong survive, or pass the "type" casting requirements. Blending in is the key. Kind of like auditioning for The Borg. Assimilate, don't stimulate, attention. We meet the demanding director Zach (a dynamic and formidable Rick McGuigan) and get the chance to see each dancer lay it all out on the line. A shout out immediately to #44 (Michael McHargh as Richie) who comes out like Willy Loman and says "Attention will be paid!" After the initial dance, Zach starts to ask each dancer to tell their own personal story.

First up is Mike (a dynamic and charming David Turner), who tells his story of being the youngest of 12, and realizing that in a bout of sibling rivalry, he can dance just as well as his sister, and dives into a musical explanation in "I Can Do That!' Turner is confident, fun, and solid, and shines. As the stories continue, we can see that Shiela (a sassy and fit Kim Eskut) isn't taking the line of questioning too well. When pressed, she shares her favorite place she experiences growing up, and that was "At The Ballet." With a rich voice, she begins the tale and is joined by two others, Bebe (a beautiful Lindsay Wilkins) and Maggie (a vocal powerhouse Megan Polk). A beautiful number staged well. You will not forget Polk's voice.

Next up is the funny hot mess of a couple Kristine and Al (erratically charismatic Kristina Zielinski, and supportive butch sidekick Anthony Salantino). Their rendition of "Sing" is a scream. I will never hear Three Blind Mice the same. Listening to Mark (funny Cory Zukoski) describe his first experience with a wet dream was a hoot. He had the audience in the palm of his hands. (Wiped off, of course.) The others begin to sing "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love," sharing their childhood stories as Connie (delightful and spunky Shannon McPeek) talks about being the shortest, Diana (classy Susan DiNino) takes the focus and describes how she didn't connect with her teacher, which leads to the song "Nothing" which DiNino delivers with straightforward panache. This Diana being less spunky, and more rooted in righteous indignation. The song is beautiful. Company members discuss some mommy issues with "Mother" as Don (man's man Joe Kenderes) and Judy (the hysterical Christine Bomberger) share their stories. Greg (beautifully affected Brad Kohl) shares his acceptance of being a future friend of Dorothy. Great monologue and some of the best work I have seen from Kohl. Then we break into "Gimme the Ball" as McHargh takes us to dancing church with some much charm and appeal, you'll be screaming like a 3 pointer. As well as sharing his dream to be a kindergarten teacher, Val (versatile dynamic hoofer Sarah Menser) makes an occasion of "Dance: Ten; Look: Three." She nails the song about getting a little help from Mother Nip/Tuck, along with Mother Nature. Excellent number. 

As members retire to another room to learn a new dance combination, Cassie (an elegant, exquisite Annie Unk), is left on stage to battle it out with her ex-lover Zach. He doesn't want her to be in the chorus, because she has been featured in the past, but it seems like some burned bridges are at the heart of the interaction. At one point, she takes charge of the moment, and expresses her deep feelings about dance, and what it means to her being in the incredible and defining show number "The Music and The Mirror." Unk is amazing. She handles the dance like an elegant bobsled traversing the most glacial of luge tracks with poetic flair and grace. Her extension divine and a back bend that would take the entire Cleveland Clinic to help me recover if I would ever attempt it. It is a dynamic impressive presentation. Which buys her character a little bit more time to prove herself.

As she retires to learn the new combo, Paul (likable, reflective Justin Williams) comes to stage front to finally answer the question of his story, having been reluctant to tell it before. He describes his unconventional story of how he became aware of his sexuality, and how he found the means to express it. This is a powerful story for many LGBT to hear and is one of the most poignant in the show. It is apparent that Williams is in total control of his monologue, and in his arc of presentation. But the actual emotional impact of the story is affected early on by the repetition of "sentence of dialogue - pause for reflection." Whether this is an acting or directorial choice. it slows the story and pace down too much.. And because you lose the emotional wham at the end, it also affects the impact of the circumstances when Paul can't go on.  However, when the delivery is connected, it really is excellent.

After the combo is learned and dancers rejoin, they resume the audition process, and it becomes quite clear that Zach and Cassie are having issues.  For purists, it might be odd to have a younger actress take on the Cassie role because with an older actress it is not just having the conflict of having a hurt ex, but probably more about aging out to younger girls. But in what I feel is a brilliant move of casting the younger Unk, for me, it seems the dialogue between Zach and Cassie take on a different meaning, especially in the #metoo movement of empowering women not to take any shit from powerful men anymore. The spewing from Zach's mouth takes on a whole other context, and it becomes quite uncomfortable. The fact that I would have loved to punch Zach in the face, is a good indication of how the scene played out. 

We come to the final question. What would you do when you can no longer dance? In a powerful reply, DiDino leads the cast in "What I Did For Love," which I have sung many times with my face in a fishbowl of long island ice teas regretting each passing birthday as I watch my body turn into playdough. But I digress. It is a wonderful anthem, sung with passion and content. The final dancers are picked, and the show concludes with the barnburner "One." This is the granddaddy and grandmommy of all 11 O'Clock numbers. Top hat in tow, bodies glittering in gold, the show ends in a glorious celebration.

There are some points of order. The sound design in the theatre is not the best. That isn't a slam but probably results from budgetary restraints. With the band behind the curtains, I wanted to hear a bit more in the house. However, the band sounded great but is muddied a bit. Since the actors didn't have mics, whenever someone turned to the side, their volume was lost. And if you weren't directly in front one of the hanging stage mics, you didn't get picked up well. There was also a little bit of leg slapping during some dialogue exchanges, which happens when people don't know what to do with their hands. 

The show is really fabulous. So many actors turning in great work. The audience soaking up all the showbiz they can. Stage Manager Jim Carrick on point. Irene Molnar costumed the cast with appropriate flair. Technical and Sound Director certainly worked his ass off to bring the elements together. Sharon Joyce was on top of the prop game. Lighting Designer Joe Plovack set the right mood with stark realism. Shout Out to the Operators: Sound - Lou "Can you hear me now?" Petrucci; Light - Joellen "Can you see me now?" Woodring; Spots: Jen "Can you see me now?" Sindyla and Gail "Please Stay in your Light!" Fischer.

Congrats to Cassidy Theatre as well. Major Kudos to President Bob Stoesser and Vice President Georgia Muttillo for keeping this incredibly important theatre alive for the community. It ain't easy, and it is important to support them at every turn.

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

April 6 - April 22

Showtimes:

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays


Tickets:
$15-$20 Reserved Seating

(440) 842 - 4600
Order Tickets Online

Location:
Cassidy Theatre
6200 Pearl Road
Parma Heights, OH 44130



Location:


Cassidy Theatre
6200 Pearl Road
Parma Heights, OH 44130