Gilbert and Sullivan Society of SA. Arts Theatre. 27 May 2023
It only costs about $3000 for a cheap return flight to New York. A half decent hotel costs just $300 for the night and a ticket to A Chorus Line on Broadway would set you back about $300. But, hold your horses, the show is long closed after 6137 performances.
Luckily for us, our own Gilbert & Sullivan Society has found the resources to stage a production of this famous show which could easily hold its own in that elite mecca of musicals they call Broadway.
That is saying a lot.
But there it is, in The Arts Theatre, with a massive cast of singers and dancers, creating a classic chorus line in which not a single toe is out of line. Choreographer Sarah Williams clearly has imposed the classic discipline and motivation to this huge ensemble.
Director Gordon Combes seems to have lured a lineup of quietly elite performers from the city’s music and dance teaching circles along with some outstanding young talent. One sees the name Pelican Productions in a number of CVs.
Musical director, Mark DeLaine, similarly, has rounded up a superb orchestra with a sensational brass section while costume co-ordinator Anne Humphries has the entire ensemble dressed to audition character until the high-kicking grand finale in which a lightning quick change brings them out glittering in wow-factor golden top hats and tails.
There are two directors in this show. One, Gordon Combes, directs in real life while the other, for the most part, is a voice in the dark from Zach, the director of the Broadway show which needs a chorus line. David MacGillivray is that voice, interviewing the hopeful talent and trying to elicit a sense of who they are. McGillivray gives this role not only authority but also heart and soul, compassion and emotional depth. Not bad.
Just as the audience responds to these qualities, so does it warm to people it gets to know through Zach's interviews. Since, to a person, they are impeccably performed, the audience gets the rare and satisfying experience of genuinely caring about all those characters singled out on stage.
There’s Mike, who came to dancing watching his older sister’s classes. Liam Phillips gives him life with the famous I Can Do That tap routine. As for Val, who was not noticed until she had enhancement surgery, Laura Williams might have been born to sing Dance: Ten Looks: Three. Then there’s Allycia Angeles, dynamic belting out Nothing as Morales, and lithe Mimi Yoshii lamenting short stature as Connie. There are just so many shining lights: Alana Shepherdson as Cassie and Maya Miller, Chloe Fusco, Jemma Allen, Maggie Cooper, Jenny Allard, Junxiang Huang, Benjamin Johnson, Teagan Garvey, Ris Mosel, and Anton Schrama, as well as a further line-up of fine dancers.
Then there’s Lachlan Stieger delivering Paul’s confessions about trying to conceal his drag work from his parents and bringing a tear to the eye.
There is a thread of plot and myriad salient messages in this show, originally conceived by Michael Bennett, who was inspired by real people in the real showbiz world. It is that veracity which has kept on striking a chord with audiences around the world. So, A Chorus Line has had “legs” for decades.
Its set requires nothing more than plenty of bare stage, and a wall of mirrors for the dancers to rehearse to. Behind that, in this production, the orchestra is hidden until a final reveal.
Sound balance and lighting are the other major factors which make the difference between a good and bad production. They’re both impeccable in this one.
It is a ripper of a first class show.
Grab a ticket if you can.
Thank me later.
When: 26 May to 3 Jun
Where: The Arts Theatre