On my recent trip to NYC, I also saw the smash-hit revival of Michael Bennett's classic, A Chorus Line. The production reminded me of what a terrific show it is: a strong and funny book, a sensational score, and some of the best choreography ever put on the Broadway stage. These are definitely the strong suits of the current revival, which is well worth taking in. The original choreography has been lovingly recreated by original cast member Baayork Lee, who has made an entire career out of preserving and remounting Michael Bennett's original work.
The current cast, however, is uneven. There are some truly terrific performances, particularly from Ken Alan as Bobby, and Paul McGill as Mark. But most of the rest of the cast tries way too hard, and the results are forced and artificial. Charlotte D'Amboise makes for an effective but unexceptional Cassie. She dances the shit out of the role, and her acting skills are quite strong. Her voice is clear and on key, but a bit weak, although the same could be said of the original Cassie, Donna McKechnie. But somehow the parts add up to a serviceable-but-uninspired whole.
Perhaps the fault lies with director Bob Avian, who seems only to remember who stood where in the original production, and hasn't really coaxed credible performances from the majority of the cast. Particularly disappointing are Natalie Cortez as Diana and Deidre Goodwin as Sheila. Diana is one of the key roles in the show, and Cortez is certainly a talented woman, but she hasn't quite created a credible characterization. Her performance feels like something out of an after-school special: overly mannered and slightly fake.
Even more of a letdown is Goodwin as Sheila. Goodwin is African American, and I think it's terrific that the powers that be have added more color to the line. But Goodwin delivers most of her lines in a far-too-stereotypical, sassy-black-woman tone. It's like she's constantly saying "Girl..." and "Oh no, you di'in't," and it gets old really fast.
But A Chorus Line ultimately isn't about individual cast members. (I mean, does anyone really remember who gets picked at the end?) It's about the ensemble and the sentiment and the fabulous dancing, and those are all here in full force in the revival. The show remains as a testament to Michael Bennett's tortured genius, and remains one of the top 10 best musicals of all time.