Theatre review: "A Chorus Line" resonates as deeply as ever in Short North Stage's hands

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When it is done well, the second act sequence in “A Chorus Line” is “second best to none,” to borrow a phrase. That’s where the big production number “One” is first constructed step-by-step before our eyes and then as carefully deconstructed while former lovers, dancer Cassie (Dionysia Williams) and director Zach (Nick Lingnofski), have it out.

In the Short North Stage production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical conceived and choreographed by Michael Bennett, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, it is very well done, indeed.

Forty years after its creation, “A Chorus Line” resonates as deeply as ever delving into the pleasures and perils of a performing life, the difficulties of the job market, the impending death of the theater, and especially the search for self. And 40 years later, the meta-musical’s central irony still hits home. Those characters spend two hours establishing themselves as individuals simply to earn the honor of being assimilated as indistinguishable members of the title collective.

Along the way, however, each one takes a spin in the spotlight. As Mike, Jeff Fouch pays tribute to his sister (“now married and fat”), whose place he took in a long-ago dance class. Diana (Samantha Gershman) vividly recounts a pretentious acting class. Lauren Monteleone showcases the benefits of body-enhancement surgery for Val. Sheila (Kaitlin Descutner), Bebe (Christeen Stridsberg) and Maggie (Brooke Walters) blend voices recalling the beauty that dance brought into their lives. Willie Garner wows us as the dancing almost-kindergarten teacher Richie. Luka Ashley Carter rivets attention telling of Paul’s pursuit of dignity and acceptance.

Credit director and choreographer Edward Carignan, musical director P. Tim Valentine, the entire cast, and orchestra for giving life to this “Chorus Line,” both the sweetness and the sorrow.

Garden Theatre

Through April 26

1187 N. High St., Short North