“A Chorus Line” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – April 8, 2023


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

As one of the few theatergoers left who saw “A Chorus Line” when it debuted in 1975, it is interesting to look at a contemporary production of the show like the one at The Phoenix Theatre Company.

Before assessing the disappointing local staging, some observations on this once trend-setting show.  It reveals the fears and anguish confronting several actors trying out for an ensemble place in a Broadway-bound musical.

Copyright rules do not allow adjustments or changes to the show.  Even the staging must duplicate the original so creativity is severely restricted.  The musical has evolved into a period piece that looks at the musical theater as it was then and not as it is today.  There are similarities to today but there are also many differences.  “A Chorus Line” was one of the first through-sung musicals but the James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante book is steeped with references to long forgotten theater stars and situations.

The original was spell-binding so to revive it successfully you MUST duplicate the original’s gripping impact, something the TPTC production never achieves.

We do not become involved with these performers because no one inhabits these people; these are always actors playing roles.  Without this mandatory immersion, you don’t care about these people or their plight.  “A Chorus Line” must be performed by triple threat performers who can sing, act, and dance exquisitely.  While all the performers master one and, in some cases, two of these requirements, no one aces all three.

All the leads disappoint starting with Sarah Wiechman’s bland and lifeless Cassie.  Wiechman allows her second act solo, “The Music and then Mirror,” to fizzle instead of stopping the show cold. Shani Barrett’s Sheila never conveys the character’s dripping cynicism, Daniel Powers’ Paul doesn’t make his monologue about his parents’ treatment of his choice of a theater career touchingly moving, and Rob Watson’s Zach, the show’s director, stumbles and bumbles with muddled diction that is never sharp and distinctive.

Jeff Whiting’s direction and Lauran Stanis’ choreography conform to the original Michael Bennett concept.  Several technical issues plague the production including spotty lighting, scenery that uses a flat mirror for Cassie’s dance instead of multi-revolving pillars that would better reflect what Cassie’s routine should present visually.

The finale, the show’s first real musical theater production routine, should be presented with glitzy gold costumes but here are glaringly wrong in tart orange.  Instead of watching a dazzlingly staged routine, you are diverted by the inappropriate costumes.

TPTC has brought local musical theater productions to remarkable perfection but its “A Chorus Line” disappoints on all counts. “A Chorus Line” runs through May 14. To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: D