There is a line running straight across the middle of the stage, from stage left to stage right. It’s one of A Chorus Line‘s staple iconic images, along with the upstage mirrors and the sequined top hats everyone wears in the finale. That line is also metaphorical; in a sense, it separates the show’s fictional dancers who have what it takes from those big-dreaming misfits who only think they do.
That metaphorical line also works to separate those myriad Chorus Line productions that succeed artistically from those that collapse into quivering blobs of embarrassment and unreachable ambition. Deceptively simple–17 leotard-clad dancers standing in a row on an empty set, taking turns talking, singing dancing–A Chorus Line is far harder to pull off than it looks. Ever since rights became available to nonprofessional companies several years ago, this edgy, tuneful show has been catnip to community theater companies far and wide, and more often than not, the “nip” ends up choking the cat.
With that line in mind, you gotta give kudos to the Santa Rosa Players for even attempting A Chorus Line. Since moving to the Sixth Street Playhouse, however, SRP has made chance-taking a part of their modus operandi, so it is not surprising that the decades-old company–one still fighting a reputation for assembling casts of wildly mixed talent–would be bold and gutsy enough to tackle a show demanding more than a dozen top-notch performances, players who must act, sing and dance.
A Chorus Line is not a two-out-of-three-ain’t-bad kind of show; to pull it off, you need a strong cast. The good news about SRP’s new production, running through Dec. 2, is that, with a couple of exceptions, the main cast is plenty strong, with many of the triple-threat performers recruited from outside the SRP stable, and many from San Francisco. Despite an opening-night tentativeness that ran throughout the cast and brought the show’s legendary intensity down a notch or two, director Joe Higgins has pulled together a solidly satisfying Chorus, with a number of eye-popping visual tricks (dancing mirrors!). A big, group tap-dancing number that is usually a throwaway in some productions–try finding 17 tap-dancers–here turns out to be a major crowd-pleasing highlight.
A Chorus Line runs Thursday-Saturday through Dec. 2. Thursday-Saturday at 8pm (no show Thanksgiving); also Saturday-Sunday matinees at 2pm. $17-$25. Sixth Street Playhouse, 52 W. Sixth St., Santa Rosa. 707.523.4185.
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