Winner of nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, A Chorus Line is the ultimate tribute to those unheralded background performers who aren’t necessarily looking for Broadway stardom but are driven by the unquenchable need to perform. Even if some of the references may be starting to show their age (the show is over 40, after all), there’s still a universal message to be gleaned here — and the songs all hold up nicely.
Set in a Broadway theater in 1975, A Chorus Line centers around a group of anxious young talents auditioning for the chorus in an upcoming show (“I Hope I Get It”), when the director decides to turn the audition into a counseling session of sorts.
He wants the actors to reveal more personal information about themselves than can be found on their resumés, which makes many of them freeze in apprehension. Gradually the mood relaxes, and the confessions begin to spill out. What gives them a necessary ring of authenticity is the fact that the book, by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, is built around actual stories told by real chorus members of the time.
Director Tim Hedgepeth has assembled a talented cast for the Playhouse’s production. Carla Sankey, who also served as choreographer, plays Sheila, a world-weary chorine who can’t be bothered with niceties and prefers to cut to the chase. She delivers a moving “At the Ballet,” accompanied by Carlye Elyse Gossen as Bebe and Alyssa Lopez as Maggie.
Alison Hinojosa makes the most of her role as Val, a young woman who unashamedly sings about paying a plastic surgeon to provide her with the attributes denied her by nature (“Dance: Ten; Looks: Three”). Lauren Silva is is also fun as Diana, whose description of her horrible high school drama class (“Nothing”) is another comic highlight. As Mike, Michael J. Gonzales describes being jealous of his sister’s dance classes as a child until he realized he was just as good as her (“I Can Do That”).
Taking a much more serious tone, Rick Sanchez flawlessly delivers a lengthy and lacerating monologue as Paul, the youth who began his career as a drag performer and lived in fear that his conservative parents would find out about his secret life.
As Cassie, an actress who once had a shot at Hollywood stardom but is now desperate to get any kind of work in the chorus, Paige Berry does well with her number, “The Music and the Mirror.” Chris Berry is also fine as Zach, the strict director who was formerly Cassie’s lover and can’t understand why she wants to give up her pursuit of fame for a return to anonymity.
The rest of the ensemble is uniformly excellent. They execute Sankey’s choreography perfectly, and their full-voiced renditions of the standards “One” and “What I Did for For Love” are highlights. Kudos too go to Jane Haas’ fine musical direction and Rose Kennedy’s costuming, which features a miracle of quick-change artistry at the end of the piece.
A Chorus Line plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through June 5 at the Playhouse San Antonio, 800 West Ashby Place. Tickets can be obtained online or by calling (21o) 733-7258.