Saturday, January 25, 2014

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: A Chorus Line (reviews)

ACLThe Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened its production of A Chorus Line on January 14, 2014.
This poignant and inspiring Tony Award-winning long-running production follows the audition process of theatre "gypsies" as they try to land a job in a Broadway show. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this dance hit musical features memorable favorites "What I did for Love," and "One." This singular sensation is for anyone who has ever had a dream and put it all on the line.
Josh Walden directed and choreographed a cast that included Noah Aberlin, Alex Aguilar, Nikki Allred, Becca Andrews, Lindsay Bell, Anne Bloemendal, Jennifer Byrne, Michael Callahan, DeMarius R. Copes, Jessica Dillan, Elizabeth Early, KC Fredericks,  Camden Gonzales, Laura Guley, Jordan Fife Hunt, Logan Keslar, Adam Lendermon, Nick Lovalvo, Gillian Munsayac, Brian Ogilvie, Jessica Periera, Michelle Petrucci, Keil Peterson, Emily Rynsanko, Shain Stroff, and Brian Varela.

Terry Teachout reviewed for the Wall Street Journal (yes, really!):
Most regional companies find it too choreographically challenging to mount, and those that dare to give it a go usually strive to reproduce Michael Bennett's original production as exactly as possible. (So did the Broadway revival, which was a near-facsimile.) Not having seen the show for eight years, I thought it would be interesting to catch a performance by the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, one of south Florida's most successful companies, and find out how it holds up. It's no surprise that "A Chorus Line" still works, despite palpable flaws that have grown more glaring since 1975. The bigger, better news is that Maltz Jupiter is giving it a very well-danced and unusually well-acted production, one that plays down the show's weaknesses while maximizing its considerable strengths.
To make the book work in spite of its datedness, it must be acted with absolute conviction and individuality, and every member of Josh Walden's cast has what it takes. You expect as much from the stars, Elizabeth Earley (Cassie) and Camden Gonzales (Diana), both of whom give sharp and vivid performances, but no one lets down the side. Smaller parts like that of Bebe (pungently played by Michelle Petrucci ) come across every bit as strongly as do the leads. Mr. Walden's direction and choreography follow Mr. Bennett's precedents closely but not slavishly, and the production values are all of the highest quality. Even the nine-piece offstage pit band, led by Eric Alsford, plays extremely well, though the amplified sound lacks presence. On the other hand, it's never too loud, a blessing that can't be taken for granted.
This was my first visit to Maltz Jupiter... The company puts on five original productions each season, two plays and three musicals, and the choice of repertory is conservative but not dull… If this "Chorus Line" is representative of the overall quality of Maltz Jupiter's work, then I very much look forward to returning there to see a straight play.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The surprising strength of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s production of A Chorus Line is how it delivers everything that your memory recalls fondly of past productions but infuses it with a welcome freshness that makes you glad you ventured to see it again.
If you have any affection for this classic, this is a must see that earns the adjective flawless – a word rarely found in a theater review.
The Maltz’s director/choreographer Josh Walden has not tried to reinvent A Chorus Line; Maltz audiences would rebel at that. Many of the iconic images are recreated such as the dancers standing on the line holding their headshots in front of their faces. In fact, much of the choreography intentionally and extensively quotes the original work of Bennett and Avian. But as with The Wick’s Theatre’s current production of 42nd Street, civilians shouldn’t underrate Walden’s ability to get such a superb level of performance out of this crew.
But, even better, Walden has excelled at eliciting acting and singing performances that are unique to this production and thereby giving it that fresh feel.
It helps that this show has cast exemplary triple-threat performers… Every last one sings like a Broadway star and acts these roles with an unflagging plausibility in which the anxiety, hope, pain and joy are written across their faces and their body language. Just an example, watch Becca Andrews’ Val who never pulls focus from the person speaking, but who is always in the moment, always reacting to what is being said. They all do that.
The entire cast deserves mention, but we’ll single out a few. Elizabeth Earley as Cassie has that glorious dance solo which she executes well if not with the sharpness we’ve seen in other productions. And oddly appropriately, she doesn’t stand out on the line for the first half of the show. But her singing of “The Music and The Mirror” is heart-wrenching and her earnest pleading for a job with the director (and former lover) is first-rate acting with no qualifiers.
As Paul whose father sees him in a drag show, Jordan Fife Hunt’s long monologue of excruciating self-revelation is emblematic of the production: deeply moving as in any other production but intriguingly different than the way you’ve seen it before.
Jennifer Byrne’s Sheila is all defensive acidity, but she exposes deep wounds and vulnerability in the gorgeous rendition of “At The Ballet” with the equally talented Michelle Petrucci as Bebe and Jessica Dillan as Maggie.
None of this shortchanges the rest: Noah Aberlin, Alex Aguilar, Lindsay Bell, Anne Bloemendal, Michael Callahan, DeMarius R. Copes, K.C. Fredericks, Logan Keslar, Adam Lendermon, Gillian Munsayac, Shain Stroff and Brian Oglivie as Zach the stern director/choreographer.
This reviewer has stated said that Maltz’s productions are expertly executed but don’t always touch the emotions. Well, this one sure as hell does. It nails the heart of this show with the force of an air gun. It’s selling out quickly; get your seats.
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre production of A Chorus Line plays through February 2, 2014.

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