The premise of this production of A Chorus Line sounds like a challenge from reality television: Can 15 teenage actors, many of them with no previous dance experience, do justice to an iconic Broadway musical with only two weeks of rehearsal? Thanks to a savvy re-imagining of the show as primarily a drama with songs—as well as to an extraordinarily dedicated team of adults backstage—last weekend the actors of Stage Left Productions answered that question with a resounding “yes.” In addition, and despite the material’s many departures from family-safe decorum, this production showed that A Chorus Line belongs to the young, who appeared to imbibe its gospel of courage, candor, and solidarity with every step they took and every move they made.
Every Chorus Line needs a good Zach, and Josh Jenkins was outstanding. His powerful voice and the building tension with Zia Affronti Morter’s Cassie put a steady, beating heart at the play’s core. Out on the line there were several performances that succeeded in stopping the show. Emma Steinkellner’s “Nothing” paced easily through the complex changes of a tour de force about futility in the classroom, a subject no doubt near to the hearts of countless high school students. Lee Weinsoff tore through any resistance to a teenaged version of “Dance: 10, Looks: 3” in the first minute, and proceeded to deliver a soulful, musical, and nuanced account of a song that has suffered through many less thoughtful interpreters.
Kam Tarlow delivered Paul’s monologue with the crystal vocal clarity and precise physical characterization necessary to communicate its subtle, bittersweet message. Christina Li had a blast as the vamp Sheila, as did Cameron Platt in the role of the goofy Texan Judy. Platt got the evening’s biggest laughs with a simple pause after one of Judy’s many awkward remarks. It’s thrilling to be in an audience that realizes when an actor is actually even funnier than his or her line. Sure, “One” may have been done with fancier costumes once upon a time at the Shubert, and Donna McKechnie may have Mckicked higher, but there hasn’t been A Chorus Line yet with more feeling than these young people put into this one.