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Covedale’s “Chorus Line” a Singular Sensation

CovedaleChorusLineImageReview by Doug Iden of A Chorus Line: Covedale Theatre

The Covedale Theater opens its new season with a very ambitious production of A Chorus Line and dances away with the prize. The 1976 best musical Tony winner deals with the dreams, frustrations, and insecurities of a group of musical theatre “gypsies” auditioning for a place in the chorus line of a fictional Broadway musical.   They are not trying out for the leads, rather they represent the nameless, faceless precision dancers who support the “stars” from the back of the stage. Of the 17 finalists, only a total of eight dancers will earn the jobs, so part of the fun, and the audience challenge, is to guess which final “four boys and four girls” will be selected. The disembodied choreographer (Zach, played by veteran Matt Dentino) asks each of the dancers to tell their stories so the ultimate selection is based upon each person’s attitude rather than pure dancing ability. Before the show concludes, try to guess who the finalists are.

This is a difficult show since it requires excellent dancing skills as well as good singing and acting performances from all of the participants, and the Covedale ensemble performed everything with a high rate of skill. Since the whole point of the show is that the dancers should blend in with each other, it is difficult to highlight specific dancers. Early on, when the dancers are supposedly learning the steps, they (deliberately) seem out of sync but, as the show progresses, the chorus merges into the precise, “singular” movements as if they were one person. Credit for the dancing belongs to Choreographer Angela Kahle who appeared to combine some new steps with the iconic Michael Bennett routines, especially for the gold lame costumed “One” number.

The cast was a mixture of high school and college students with local veterans. A few of the highlights include Renee Stoltzfus as Diana Morales singing “Nothing” and doing a solo on the hit song from the show “What I Did for Love”. Stoltzfus’ mic was swallowing some of the song but she still managed to belt the lyric. Afton Shepard was hilarious as Val with her sexy number “Dance Ten, Looks Three” and Ben Goodman poignantly described his character’s humiliating experience as a drag queen. The orchestra, under the direction of Michael Kennedy, overcame a little ragged start with blaring and off key brass to finish strong. It’s good to have live music and musicians that do not overpower the singers.

The staging was effective with a nearly naked stage and the necessary mirrors. Lighting is still an issue at the Covedale with the spotlights missing the actors too often. Overall, you should consider pirouetting over to the Covedale to join the Chorus Line.