A mixed 'Chorus Line'

Review: Uneven performances keep 'A Chorus Line' from great heights at the Crouse Hinds Theater.

Difficulties in the Tuesday performance of A Chorus Line, presented by the Famous Artist Broadway Theater Series and playing at the Oncenter, proved that a chorus line is only as strong as the performers within it.

First the show was delayed by 25 minutes when a lead actor had to be replaced at the last minute (by SU alumnus Nick Nerio). Then, during the show, sound glitches could be heard in two key numbers, one where the music overpowering the singers, and static in parts of one song.

Photo: Cosè Manuel Rossi, courtesy of Networks Presentations, LLC
The 'Chorus Line' from a 2008 Italian performance of the award-winning Broadway show.

Such things are unavoidable sometimes and the only thing then that can be done is to continue singing and dancing. And dance they did, in stirring synchronicity. But when it came to the overall performances, the show was a mixed bag.

A Chorus Line, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, was first developed by Buffalo native Michael Bennett (there is a joke about the city in the show).

The musical is about 17 dancers who audition for a chorus line and the stories that brought them there. Bennett based the show on true stories from Broadway dancers.

The show first opened on Broadway in 1975 and won nine Tony Awards and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is currently on its national tour and at the helm directing is Bayoork Lee, one of the original cast members and who assisted Bennett with choreography.

Lee brings with her the original set design and costumes. Unfortunately, the performers don't match up. This new group is uneven and in some parts, lacking the experience and skills needed to properly personify their roles.

The most glaring example is Rylyn Juliano, who graduated from SU in 2009. She plays Cassie, a dancer in her 30s who used to be a solo dancer but has fallen on rough times and is trying to get back to work.

It’s a tough character for a recent graduate in her early 20s to undertake, and the struggle is apparent. Juliano, though she sounds young, holds herself with maturity and her acting is filled with the necessary desperation.

Yet her signature song, “The Music and the Mirror,” was off-key in some parts and strained in others.

The song, with a dance solo, is Cassie’s attempt to convince the director, Larry, to let her dance in the chorus. As such, it is a dance for her life and the ashes of her career. Watching Juliano’s performance, the solo came across as merely lovely, technically proficient but little authentic emotions underneath.

Fortunately, not all of the performances were uneven. Gina Duci, who plays Diana, has the toughest job of the bunch. But she succeeds the most in her role. The dancing and synchronicity aside, she is given two long numbers, more than anyone else in the show.

One is “Nothing,” about Diana’s failed and hilarious experiences in acting school, which she performs with an almost manic dose of youthful energy and determination.

Then there is the show-stopping “What I Did For Love.” Duci has a formidable lower register but on the high notes, her voice strains, which diminishes the power of the song. Despite that, her sincerity and hopeful demeanor succeeds in imprinting the message of the song and the show. Even if the outlook may be bleak, do what you love and never apologize for it. That message resonated with the original audiences back in 1975 and on Tuesday, it came across, albeit with substantially less power.

A Chorus Line is an entertaining production but upon leaving, there is a feeling that something essential is missing, namely a sense of exhilaration and anticipation.

The closing number “One,” with the dancers performing as one golden-clad entity, is as stirring as it would usually be, minus the sound issues. But in the end, the discrepancies in the individual performances keep A Chorus Line from reaching the grandiose height of the original.

Go see the show

What: A Chorus Linepart of the Famous Artist Broadway series

Where: Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater at the Civic Center, 800 S. State St., Syracuse, NY 13201

When: Oct. 12-14, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $32-$66. Half-priced student rush tickets are available at the box office one hour prior to each performance. Bring student ID and cash.

Phone: (315) 435-2121

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