Due to “an abundance of caution,” either self-inflicted or by governmental fiat, virtually every stage company in South Florida has postponed or canceled its March show, citing the dangers of communal theatergoing in this time of coronavirus.
Then there is The Wick Theatre, which threw caution to the wind and opened its scheduled production of A Chorus Line, at least for two performances this past weekend. Efforts will be made to bring the show back next month, but if you missed one of these bygone shows, you missed what is arguably the best work in the Boca Raton troupe’s seven seasons of operation.
Of course, it had a head start with the nine-time Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning show which strips the musical of its usual colorful sets and costumes for a look backstage at chorus dancer auditions led by Zach, a somewhat sadistic director-choreographer who uses his power to pry into the lives of his cast hopefuls.
Still, it is an exceedingly difficult show to pull off well, but you would never know it from the pitch-perfect Wick production, staged by Mitzi Hamilton, a veteran of the show’s original London company and later of the Broadway cast, as well as the inspiration for the character Val of “Dance: 10, Looks: 3” renown. Like original cast members Baayork Lee and Wayne Cilento, Hamilton is a keeper of the flame of the late Michael Bennett’s iconic direction, keeping it alive in subsequent productions like this one.
From the opening cattle call that winnows the wannabes down to 17 to their apprehensive poses in a line waiting for their interviews to the ethereal “At the Ballet” to the raucous “Hello 12, Hello 13, Hello Love” to the finale “One,” in which they become the anonymous unit Zach has been rehearsing them to be, Hamilton crafts her cast into an ensemble on a par with any tour of A Chorus Line that has ever danced its way into the area.
Since the show is now 45 years old, surely none of the Wick’s cast was born when A Chorus Line first stunned Broadway. But like any musical theater dancer worth his or her salt, they know these legendary steps and combinations, ingrained into their muscle memory. One day some choreographer will have the audacity to invent new dances to the sublime Marvin Hamlisch-Edward Kleban score, just as is happening to West Side Story currently on Broadway. Fortunately, at the Wick, that time has not happened yet.
There is not a weak link in the entire Wick cast, but certain roles are natural standouts. As Cassie, the director’s former girlfriend who failed to catch on in Hollywood, Jessica Lee Goldyn is stunning in the narcissistic solo of anguish, “The Music and the Mirror,” as graceful and powerful as any performer I’ve ever seen in the role – yes, including the number’s originator, Donna McKechnie. And Jonathan Fleites is heart-breaking with Paul’s monologue of his days as a female impersonator, based on the life on the show’s co-writer, Nicholas Dante.
Emily Tarallo is probably too young for the role of chorus veteran Sheila, but she conveys all of the character’s hard-bitten attitude. And Jawan Hayes is always worth watching as Richie, the former kindergarten teacher who left that safe, unsatisfying career for the uncertainty of Broadway.
The set is credited to Robin Wagner, whose simple yet iconic black void, broken only by the occasional arrival of a back wall of mirrors, has defined the show since it began. Mood changes fall to lighting designer Jose Santiago, a frequent member of the Wick’s creative team. The only disappointment is the Wick’s continued use of recorded music, though the tracks for A Chorus Line are certainly above par.
The trick now will be keeping this cast together until the production can return in late April. Those theatergoers intrepid enough to attend this past weekend were treated to a remarkable show that more deserve to experience.
A CHORUS LINE, The Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Closed after two performances, potentially reopening in late April. $75-$85. 561-995-2333.