OOOH! SIGH! Give ’Em Your Attention: “One More Productions” ‘Singularly Sensational’ “A Chorus Line” Is Uncommonly Rare, Very Unique–And Definitely Second Best To None!

“One More Productions” Presents “A Chorus Line” September 11th–October 3rd, 2021, At “The Gem Theatre” In Garden Grove California www.OneMoreProductions.com

 

“Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen—Hello Live Audiences!” That’s what “One More Productions”, the plucky theater company housed at the landmark “Gem Theater” in Garden Grove California, are saying once more with their staging of the classic musical “A Chorus Line”!  The second “live” production in their 2021-22 season, the production is directed by OMP Co-founder Damien Lorton (who also serves as Musical Director,) while the frequently stunning choreography is by Shauna Bradford, Alan Collins, Heather Holt Smith and Kady Lawson.

 

“Who am I anyway? Am I my resume? That is a picture of a person I don’t know; what does he want from me? Who should I try to be? So many faces all around and here we go…” The Cast of One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

A musical exploration of the lives of Dancers as told via an allegorical Broadway audition circa 1975, “A Chorus Line” was developed by the Legendary Director-Choreographer Michael Bennett from a series of taped conferences he held with various dancer friends and associates starting in 1973.

“Before we do any more dancing—and we will be dancing some more–but let me explain something: I’m looking for a strong dancing chorus. I need people who look terrific together—and that can work together as a group…” Ricky Augustin is Director/Choreographer “Zach” describes what he’s looking for in the dancers he needs to hire in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

Many of the stories related in “A Chorus Line”—its scenes, tunes, and text, are the bona fide, dyed-in-the-wool life experiences of those who participated—more than a few of whom went on to star in the original Broadway outing. With a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante (with healthy dollops of humor from an uncredited Neil Simon,) the songs are by Edward Kleban (Lyrics) and Marvin Hamlisch (Music) the result of all their efforts was a “Tony Award” for “Best Musical”, a “Pulitzer Prize” for Drama, and one of the longest runs ever in the history of the “Great White Way”! If melodies like “I Can Do That” provide the HOW of a dancer’s motivation, others like “At The Ballet”, “The Music And The Mirror” and What I did For Love” provide the WHY.  Perhaps one of the show’s most ‘uncommonly rare, very unique’ features, however, is the second act dance sequence that introduces the show’s major anthem, “One”. Performed here with the groups’ back initially to the audience (which succeeds in making it all the more compelling) once the dancers ‘break’ into smaller groups, we are given the opportunity to actually hear bits of their inner-monologue which sheds light on what goes through a dancer’s head as they try to learn an individual bit of choreography, culminating in a brilliant ‘kick line’. This immediately followed another portentous segment titled “Tap Combination”; for “OMP’s” production, the choreography for this disarmingly sprightly intermezzo is particularly sharp and buoyant incorporating a few nifty “Pendulum Time-Steps” and a string of dashing “Bombershays”—the very stuff of a crowd pleaser if ever there was one.

“Throw me a rope to grab onto—help me to prove that I’m strong! Give me the chance to look forward to saying: ‘Hey listen, they’re playing my song!’ Play me the music—give me a chance to come through! All I ever needed was the music and the mirror and the chance to dance…” Hannah Clair as “Cassie” longs to return to the freer, simpler life when dancing was all that mattered in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

Both the direction and choreography combine to furnish this production with plenty of pleasant surprises where you least expect them. In fact, Lorton has accomplished the enviable feat of striking the delicate balance twixt staying true to the source material–and its original spirit, while mixing things up just enough to keep the show fresh and fairly undated.

“Give me a job and you instantly get me involved! If you give me a job, then the rest of this crap will get solved! Put me to work, you would think that by now I’m allowed I’ll do you proud!” Led by Race Chambers (Center) as “Al”, Edvan Galvain (L) as “Don” and Hunter Nelson (R ) as “Mike” enjoy some fancy flying footwork in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

Right off, anyone familiar with the show is bound to notice that he’s changed the various ages of the dramatis personae to better—and more realistically–reflect the modern ‘age range’ and relative longevity a chorus dancer can expect nowadays (back in 1975, maybe a dancer was through at 30, but that’s not always the case so much today.) Likewise, with a show this considerable, it’s little wonder that “One More Productions” employed no less than FOUR Choreographers–each with their own area of polish and expertise, thus giving this enterprise a wonderful sense of variety and richness. Taken as a whole, they often incorporate quick flourishes of stately dance maneuvers performed (or enacted) in the background of smaller numbers with the singer in the foreground. This effectively brings the accompanying stanzas ‘to life”, giving them extra “Drama” and “Life”.  Not only does this make more sense, but it avoids any disruptions in the greater story’s overall ‘flow’ (–not to mention how it lets us know that this is most assuredly NOT the same old, “same old”!)

“We’re ALL special: He’s special, and She’s special, and Shelia and Richie and Connie! They’re ALL special and I’d be happy to be dancing in that line!” Kady Lawson (Center) as “Kristine DeLuca” with Giovanna Martinez (Left) and “Diana Morales’ and Lexi Cross (Right) as “Judy Turner” ‘Jeté’ for joy in a fleet-footed sequence as part of One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

Seeing that he first appears at the top of the show on-stage, leading the big dance audition and subsequent eliminations, (rather than simply introducing him as a disembodied voice at the back of the auditorium until after intermission,) gives Ricky Augustin’s portrayal of Zach much more potency and substance.   Playing opposite him in the key role of “Cassie”, Hannah Clair predominantly keeps out of the spotlight until the close of the first act, then triumphantly launches the second half with “The Music And The Mirror”.

“How can you do it?!You got out of the chorus when you were twenty-two—what the Hell makes you think you can go back when you’re thirty-two?!” Ricky Augustin as “Zach” confronts Hannah Clair as “Cassie” about her desire to start over again in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

In doing so, she displays some prodigious acting chops over and above plenty of fancy stepping (not least of which, for all you dance aficionado’s out there, include some pristine ‘Grande Battments’, lively ‘Chainés Turns’, and lithe ‘Cambré Renversé’ involutions—Whew! this gal has some solid technique behind her!)   All the while she invests the show with its emotional core. Her monologue leading into the song is lovely, believable, and excruciatingly heartfelt: “I’m putting myself on the line—I’m putting myself on your line,” she explains to Zach of her desire to return to the dancing ensemble after having experienced limited success in weightier ‘breakout’ roles. “I don’t want to wait on tables—and what I really don’t want to do is teach other people how to do what I should be doing myself!” she pleads with him; “God, I’m a Dancer—a Dancer dances!” (Yes! it’s a showstopper that’ll have you cheering for more!)

“—and I was always thinking up these spectacular ways how to kill myself! (But then I realized…’Suicide’ in Buffalo is redundant.)” Jacob Beaver as “Robert Charles Joseph Henry Mills”—better known as “Bobby”, enthralls the crowd with his tales of life growing up Buffalo New York in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

Kicking off the retinue of ‘solo’ numbers (–and this one has its share of them–) “One More Productions” veteran Hunter Nelson is “Mike”.  Nelson validates once again (in grand style) that he positively has all the right moves with “I Can Do That”—a jaunty Tap interlude in which, “Mike” details how he ‘accidentally’ became a dancer as a small child accompanying his sister to her dance classes, eventually taking her place there once she lost interest.   Jacob Beaver is also a standout right from the get-go as the witty and dexterous “Bobby”—practically leading the on-stage antics in the opening “God, I Hope I Get It“, then hitting all the right notes with his bombastic and hilarious comic monologue which confers the framework for the number “And…” Indeed, it would be safe to assert that with his timing and treatment, we can count this one as a thorough Act One highlight early on. (Interestingly too, the stories he tells in his soliloquy also happen to be based on the formative experiences of the show’s driving force, Michael Bennett.) T.J. Punchard is himself a towering vocal powerhouse as “Ritchie”, whose robust “Give Me The Ball…” doesn’t merely live up to expectation, it surpasses it!  Furthermore, in the show’s other ‘crucial’ male role, Andrew Cano proves instantly likeable as the vulnerable “Paul San Marco”. Cano does a magnificent job delivering Paul’s monologue—a rarity for any musical and one which the show is renowned for, relating the actual true-to-life experiences of Co-Author, Nicholas Dante. Given Cano’s unaffected expressiveness here, every syllable is compelling with not a word or emotional inflection or pause ringing false, (and if you aren’t seriously touched by the time he’s through, check your temperature—you may have a snow-cone where your heart should be!)

“I was so enthusiastic! I was into everything! The Yearbook is filled with my pictures—and I was lucky, ‘cause I got a scholarship to college! A scholarship to college—so I’m gonna be this Kindergarten teacher! (Imagine me?! A Kindergarten Teacher?!)” T.J. Punchard (Center) as “Richie Walters” recollects his ‘enthusiastic’ days of high school in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

Every step as captivating are the ladies on ‘The line’: Given some of the very best comedic parlance the script contains, Elizabeth Cuzzupoli evidences a practiced way with a barbed quip or sarcastic throwaway line as the acerbic ‘senior’ dancer, “Sheila”; but it’s when she lays bare the sensitive, (if stifled,) soul behind the wisecracks, that her performance sincerely takes flight. Such is the case with her delicate but precise ministration of the poignant “At The Ballet”, wherein “Sheila” describes her unhappy home life (“Life with my dad wasn’t ever a picnic—more like a come-as-you-are…”) and how Ballet class was the only refuge the little girl had (“It wasn’t paradise…” she croons, “but it was home.”) Right before the finale, while the ‘chosen’ dancers are high-fiving and congratulating one another (and those not chosen are packing up and heading out,) “Sheila” forlornly stands at the stage’s apron taking one last instant to hold onto the memory of what could very well be her last time up in front of the footlights (at least until the next audition!)

“Life with my Dad wasn’t ever a picnic—more like a ‘come as you are’! When I was five I remember my Mother dug earrings out of the car. I knew that they weren’t hers but is wasn’t something you’d want to discuss…” Elizabeth Cuzzupoli as “Shelia” recalls despite her ugly childhood, “Everything Was Beautiful At The Ballet” in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

In any case, it’s a potently empathetic moment and Cuzzupoli plays it with perfect understatement. Another ‘power belter’ this production may boast is Mikaela O’Connor as the waifish “Maggie Winslow”.  Beyond just supplying a beguiling and vigorous vocal quality though, she perspicaciously interprets her lyrics with a fine sincerity as well, as witnessed with her part in the trio, “At The Ballet”, and later with the lovely and lyrical “Mother, Oh, Mother”. Completing the “Ballet” trio is Julia Iacopetti as “Bebe” (“Different may be nice, but it sure isn’t ‘pretty’—pretty is what it’s about; I never met anyone who was ‘different—who couldn’t figure that out?!” she sings of her mother’s ‘oblique’ description of the child’s ungainly looks.) Together the three delight the ears once they begin singing in unison, giving rise to some outstanding harmony even as they stroke the heart strings.

“Look, my eyes are dry…the ‘Gift’ was ours to borrow; it’s as if we always knew…and I won’t regret what I did for Love—” Giovanna Martinez as “Diana Morales” leads the cast in pondering the cost of “What I Did For Love” in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

In addition, Giovanna Martinez also shines as “Diana”—a.k.a. “Morales”. A splendid dancer, with a supple resilience, she first gets our attention performing a breath-taking ‘Développé’ as part of the supporting divertissements in “At The Ballet” (which successfully conveys the entire tone of what this ballad’s words are referring to.) It’s “Morales” who is granted Two of the score’s most memorable inclusions: the first, sandwiched into the expansive, “Hello, Twelve, Hello Thirteen…” portion, is titled “Nothing”, as Morales recalls her not-so-fulfilling days at New York’s “Highschool For The Performing Arts”, chiefly due to one antagonistic Acting Teacher she had there. In Act Two, her rendition of the iconic eleventh hour, “What I Did For Love” is an astute mix of sweetness and underlying passion, which vastly increases it ‘satisfaction quotient’ (––this is categorically worth waiting for!) Kerri Pelekoudas is also a hoot as the busty babe sporting a skintight pink leotard, “Val”. Ms. Pelekoudas dazzles with her saucy, “euphemistically titled” “Dance Ten, Looks Three”. Leading into the Act break, she enthusiastically elevates it into a genuine standard-bearer for the entire proceedings (plus, she honestly can execute some terrific fan-kicks to boot!)

 

“When I begin to (Shriek) it’s a cross between a (Squeak) and a quiver or a (Moan) It’s a little like a (Croak) or the record player (Broke) What it doesn’t have is (Tone)” Race Chambers as “Al Deluca” and Kady Lawson as his wife “Kristine” are a newlywed couple already finishing each other’s sentences (–even in song–) in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

Race Chambers (who serves as an assistant to the Choreographers) and Kady Lawson (who also serves as one of the production’s Co-Choreographers) also present a refreshingly believable, affectionate pair of young newlyweds as “Al Deluca” and his bride “Kristine”, who also demonstrate a few absolutely dynamic ballet lifts performed center stage at the climax of “Hello, Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love”. Lawson also shrewdly steers clear of painting “Kristine” as “a crazy ding-a-ling”, instead leaning more towards essentially being young and a bit overwhelmed to be a part of such an important audition. This, in turn, lets us all in on the joke—and easily ‘wins us over’ to her and her husband’s ‘side’ during their clever and smile-inducing duet, “Sing”. Not to be overlooked either is Iva Erwin’s “Connie”—the “5’ 10” Peanut On Pointe” who is loaded with a forthright charm and charisma. Into the mix, Lorton has also re-imagined several of his protagonists—among them, Edvan Galvain’s ‘take’ on “Don”, which exhilaratingly re-envisions this ostensibly ‘subsidiary figure’ from ‘Kansas City’ into a more streetwise Latino from ‘Mexico City’, which gives him a whole new resonance within the larger narrative.  In the same regard, the far too repeatedly marginalized role of Assistant Choreographer, “Larry” (who pretty much maintains order on-stage while keeping the audition running smoothly,) has also been ‘re-defined’ with a change of gender into “Lola”, and the modification correspondingly gives Angela Mattern’s depiction of her a deeper implication and timbre. Just her basic attitude (especially when “Cassie” is around,) reveals all the unspoken history she may share with Zach in her own right. Moreover, as “Judy Turner”, Lexi Cross similarly transforms this more-or-less ‘supporting character—who at one point refers to herself as “the skinny redhead second from the left” into a truly vivacious and flirtatious personality (“Oh, and I was born in El Paso—that’s El Paso Texas!” she tells us with a gleaming grin.)

 

“See, when I quit school what I was doing was trying to find out who I was and how to be a man…You know, there are a lot of people in this world who don’t know how to be men, and since then I found out that I am one. I was looking for the wrong thing. I was trying to learn how to be ‘butch’…Any way, I started hanging around Seventy-Second Street meeting all these strange people; Just trying to make friends that were like me…” Andrew Cano as “Paul San Marco” explains how (and why) he tumbled into a life in Dance in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

For a show that’s ostensibly played out a on a plain stage, (with an array of reflective mirrored panels at the back,) there are some technical elements which nonetheless add immensely to the general ambience. John Hyrkas’ vibrant lighting designs could, in effect, be considered the show’s fundamental “Set” –such as the way the light bathes “Kristine” in a strident green hue with every off-key note she hits, or how “Val” is surrounded in a haze of sultry red lights on one side, blue on the other in the midst of her chanson, “Dance Ten, Looks Three”.  In the same sense, Luis Cornejo’s costumes correspondingly bestow a different—but still spot-on accurate—reflection of mid-1970’s dance and audition attire, before culminating in an equally refreshing interpretation of the classic “Gold” Lamé top hats and tuxedos in the finale.

“She walks into a room, and you know you must shuffle along, join the parade—she’s the quintessence of ‘making the grade’! This is what you call travelling—Oh, strut your stuff! Can’t get enough…” Angela Mattern as “Lola” the Assistant Chorographer is looking fine, leading the line in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

 

‘Front Orchestra and Balcony—what they’ve got, you’ll want to see!’ Having officially opened on Saturday, September 11th, “A Chorus Line” will run through Sunday, October 3rd, 2021, at “The Gem Theatre”– located at 12852 Main Street in Garden Grove, CA.  Show-times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, with Sunday Matinees at 2:00 PM; with two Saturday matinees on September 18th and 25th at 2:00 PM. Tickets may be obtained by calling “One More Productions” at (714) 741-9550, ext. 221, by logging onto: www.onemoreproductions.com , or visiting the “Gem Theater” box-office in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM .  Special discounts for Seniors (60+) and Children (12 and under) are available, while “Student Rush” tickets are also being offered for certain Thursday and Friday evening performances.

 

“One! Singular Sensation! Every little step they take; One! Thrilling combination, every move that they make! One smile and suddenly nobody else will do—you know you’ll never be lonely with you know who…” The entire company celebrate being part of “One Singular Sensation” in One More Productions’ 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line”

 

Production Stills By Ron Lyon Of “Ron Lyon Photo” Courtesy Of “One More Productions” (www.onemoreproductions.com) Special Thanks To Damien Lorton, Nicole Cassesso, Tad Fujioka, Shauna Bradford, Luis Cornejo, John Hyrkas, Ron Lyon And The Cast & Crew Of “One More Productions” 2021 Staging of “A Chorus Line” For Making This Story Possible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.