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LIGHTNING REVIEW: 'A Chorus Line' was worth the wait

It feels like “A Chorus Line” is back by popular demand even though the renowned Broadway musical only this weekend made its debut on the Flat Rock Playhouse stage.

But it is “back,” in a way, because the show was one of the luminaries in the 2020 season, doomed to darkness by you know what.

It was worth the wait — the wait being nearly 50 years. The musical, which opened in 1975, held the record during its day as the longest running show on Broadway —more than 6,000 performances — while winning nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Director and Best Choreographer, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

It’s wonderful watch the ensemble cast of professional actors and this season’s corps of apprentices bring the music, drama and joy to life in Flat Rock, where appreciative audiences are cheering all the way through the final curtain call.

No musical comedy, “A Chorus Line” tells the story — with plenty of pathos and drama — of 17 dancers auditioning for a role on the dance line of a new show. To get to know them better, the director, Zach, probes them one by one about their lives, their backgrounds, their goals and desires — drawing out often painful memories from the 20-somethings still struggling to define themselves and in some cases overcome childhood trauma.

One dancer “can’t remember” the name of his hometown. “I’ve blocked it out.” Bobby describes a “real boring” childhood in a family that was “middle class or upper class, I never could figure out which.” When football came up, “I told them I had polio.” Another got in trouble for setting his little brother on fire and supposedly considered taking his own life. “But then I realized to commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant.”

They’re from all over — Kansas, California, New Jersey, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Boston, El Paso, St. Louis, Vermont, Arizona, the Bronx — and what they have in common is the desire to perform, to make it, at least in this singular first step, to the Big Time.

In “I Hope I Get It,” the opening number, the dancers variously express their hope and their anxiety under one common desire: “Please God, I need this job.”

Monica Garcia Bradley as Diana is terrific leading the song “Nothing,” delivering a spunky and fun performance. She shines, too, in front of the company in the moving “What I Did for Love.”

As director Lisa K. Bryant says in a playbill note, the show invites us to peek behind the curtain at what brought the aspirants to the audition stage. “And why, despite the grueling and assiduous rejections that dominate their pursuits, the performers won’t forget, and can’t regret, choosing to dance.”

Cassie (Alexandria Van Paris) has to justify her presence at the audition to director Zach (Jason Watson). They’re onetime love interests; he thinks she should be in roles bigger than a supporting ensemble one. In her defense of the chorus line, she articulates the heart and the soul of the show — that every dancer has value and importance. She’d be proud to join them.

In the fast-moving Act II, we get our answer to the casting question. Zach calls nine names, which as it turns out are the ones going home. The entire cast shines in both performances of “One” — which opens Act II and closes the show in a resounding reprise.

One, singular sensation, every little step she takes/
One, thrilling combination, every move that she makes/
One smile and suddenly nobody else will do/
You know you'll never be lonely with you-know-who

As the curtain comes down on “A Chorus Line,” it feels like a special joy to be back at the Playhouse, in a crowd of unmasked theater patrons, enjoying a live performance. The show inside a show makes us appreciate what any anonymous dancer goes through pursuing his or her craft; more than that, the performance at the Playhouse makes us sing praise anew that we are able to enjoy our own one, singular sensation — entertaining, professional theater in the village of Flat Rock.

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A Chorus Line runs from July 13 to Aug. 6 at Flat Rock Playhouse’s Leiman Mainstage. Tickets range from $52 to $72. Student prices are available for ages 18 and under. For tickets, call the Flat Rock Playhouse Box Office at 828.693.0731 or visit