A Chorus Line @ Hollywood Bowl

A Chorus Line @ Hollywood Bowl

7/30/16 (Fri), Hollywood Bowl

This is a strange choice for the annual Hollywood Bowl musicals, since the vast venue didn’t really seem the place for a show revolving around intimate monologues. I was wondering if director Baayork Lee had something in mind. It proved in fact to be the traditional staging, mirrors and all. No complaints there, though I did watch most of the show through my opera glasses; I even used them for the big video screens projecting the show, since even those weren’t quite big enough for our outfield seats.

My opinion on the show itself is unchanged – stale book, great songs, brilliant staging. The long book scene leading up to “What I Did For Love” in particular badly needs cutting, and with shears, not scissors. It is not on the level of much of the other scenes. But then there’s the dancing. One friend noted that the dances themselves were not overly complex or athletic as in many stage musicals these days. It was all about the finesse and poise of the dancers along with the singularly sensational staging that pulled the entire show together. I thought of the equivalent in modern singing, where overwrought emoting (or shouting) substitutes for real style. This show projects utter confidence without those flourishes. It’s virtually a relic of a lost era.

The performances and dancing overall were extremely high quality. Sarah Bowden, an Australian actress who’s apparently a big star in Germany, was outstanding as Cassie. While the melodramatic dialogue with Zach is still telenovela material, she managed to make her desperation seem deeply felt, and her “Music and the Mirror” was thrilling. That was the performance of the night. Mario Lopez was good enough in the clumsy role of Zach in both the acting and minimal dancing. In luxury casting, Robert Fairchild, the awesome star of An American in Paris, took the small role of Mike (the “I Can Do That” guy), which he danced to perfection. Apparently he preferred to be one of the boys, who are on stage almost the entire show, rather than the nominal starring role of Zach, who is mainly a ghostly presence. That is, he just wants to dance – basically summing up the theme of the entire show. Bravo for that.

Krysta Rodriguez as Diana Morales (“Nothing”, “What I Did For Love”) was terrific with a great voice and a natural manner that made it look easy. Leigh Zimmerman as Sheila was also excellent in a tricky role, making the cynicism feel like insecurity. “At the Ballet” is my favorite song in the show, and she aced it. She won an Olivier for this role in the London production, which seems well earned based on this performance. Connie (J. Elaine Marcos), Maggie (Mara Davi) and Paul (Jason Tam, as on Broadway – but what was with the dumb mustache this time?) were also memorable. I wasn’t as taken by Sabrina Bryan, who didn’t really have the comic chops for “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three” and was a bit too short for the role. Otherwise there wasn’t a dud in the entire cast. Amazing that the director could make this work in the super-short rehearsal time they gave her.

As suspected, the show didn’t have nearly the impact in this gigantic venue as in a proper theater. I’m glad I wasn’t seeing it for the first time, and wonder how that affected my friends’ appreciation of the piece. But it was still a thrill to be watching with 17,000 others – the equivalent of 10-12 Broadway performances. The finale in those gold costumes really got the crowd going, a great end to a great night.

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