‘A Chorus Line’ at Timber Lake.
By Sue Langenberg
Rousing opening musical “A Chorus Line” at Timber Lake Playhouse of Mt. Carroll sets up the 52nd summer season with everything about show biz exhilaration that an audience could ask for.
The show draws a perfect storm of talent as executive director Jim Beaudry notes that the summer stock theatre has never attempted to produce Pulitzer prize winning ‘Chorus Line’ because, somewhat like “West Side Story,” the cast requires such a high level of ability and stamina. The performers must be more like athletes, he notes.
This TLP show was directed and choreographed by New Yorker Will Taylor, no stranger to staging uplifting experiences that make the audience jump to its feet and sing its way out the door. His third TLP season has delivered these experiences that include “Oklahoma,” and ‘Guys and Dolls.’ His other contributions to the theatre dot the creative landscape in New York’s People’s Improv Theatre and at Carnegie Mellon. Acting credits include Broadway’s “A Chorus Line,” as well as “La Cage Aux Folles,” “The Producers,” and “42nd Street.”
Taylor has already waved his wand of direction for ‘Chorus Line,’ however, and as of Thursday’s opening has flown off to Australia world concert tour with Kristin Chenoweth.
‘Chorus Line’ opened on Broadway in 1975 and ran over 6,000 performances, garnering numerous Tony awards and 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Music was by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban after book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante.
Throughout hypnotic rhythms (“One.”) and emotional yearnings for a dance part (“I Hope I Get It.”), the cast audition hopefuls are thrust into a familiar rejection mode. Their lives pass before them with all the insecurities and foibles that bring them to this juncture. But Second Act powerful song, “What I Did For Love,” (beautifully led by Tayloir Pace) is the ultimate life decision.
These cast members had it all. Act, dance or sing, they masterfully rode an addictive pace toward the final reprise of “One,” with entire company in golden zenith. Merely a few among many outstanding performers included well-cast Pilar Millhollen as Cassie, Lexie Plath, Danielle Davila and Erica Stephan in “At The Ballet” and spitfire hoofer Joe Capstick in “I Can Do That.”
Also notable were electric Gilbert Domally — someone to watch in upcoming shows — and Geena Quintos with her crisp and clean moves and also serving as assistant choreographer. Unforgettable TLP favorite Sawyer Smith with his oozing natural presence and versatile showmanship seemed designed for this show, as well as Genna-Paige Kanago. The magic rhythms from behind the scenes were directed by Kyle Branzel.
The name Marvin Hamlisch may have been merely printed on the program, but his genius reaches far beyond the ‘Chorus Line’ credit. His musical influence spanned nearly five decades as he became one of the few to receive EGOTs — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and right up there with icon Richard Rodgers to have won a Pulitzer Prize. He was born a piano prodigy and spent most of his adult life composing and conducting his magic. His first professional job was as rehearsal pianist for “Funny Girl,” starring Barbra Streisand and his last project was just before an untimely death last year of musical scores for “Behind the Candelabra” with Matt Damn and Michael Douglas as Liberace.
Must see “A Chorus Line” continues at Timber Lake Playhouse and runs through June 16. All evening performances are 7:30 p.m., and matinees at 2 p.m., except Saturday June 8 at 3 p.m. Group rates available. Tickets go fast, and TLP is a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road, in the boonies of Mt. Carroll. Contact the box office at (815) 244-2035 or www.timberlakeplayhouse.org for more information.