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Chesapeake Music Hall performers deliver fast-paced 'A Chorus Line'


In this show without stars, several performers shine briefly inChesapeake Music Hall's production of "A Chorus Line," high-stepping through Nov. 18 at the dinner theater off Route 50 in Annapolis.

Last seen there in 1997, the show is directed by Sherry Kay Anderson and Katy M. Danckaert. This time around, actor-dancers deliver a brighter, faster-paced show with smoothly layered cinematic staging.

Michael Bennett's 25-year-old show remains an honest, affectionate portrayal of chorus dancers. A neat balance exists between Marvin Hamlisch's classic music and Edward Kleban's still-biting lyrics, moving the story forward and engaging audiences.

Realism pervades "A Chorus Line" from its behind-the-scenes opening as dancers warm up on a bare stage to prepare for an audition, where the director tries to reach them as individuals. As director Zach pares the number of dancers, he elicits hesitant responses that are brash, defensive and moving - all revealing their vulnerability. At the end, these individuals will blend anonymously into a final chorus line of eight dancers.

From the opening warm-up, dancers are drawn into the audition process with the song "I Hope I Get It," where their faces are briefly hidden behind their 8-by-10 glossies that are passed to Zach.

As Mike, Jeffrey Hitaffer delivers a tap-dancing routine in "I Can Do That" that defines athletic prowess with several spectacular acrobatic flips. Tenley Newcomb captures, in "At the Ballet," her character's need to escape to where "everything seemed beautiful."

Newcomb's Sheila is joined by two of the show's best singers - Andrea Ostrowski as Bebe and Ashley Adkins as Maggie. An Old Mill High School junior, Adkins is not only a fine singer but dances with a smooth, easy perfection that makes her a natural standout.

Adkins' classmate Chase Taylor, also a junior at Old Mill High School, is another outstanding dancer making an impressive Chesapeake Music Hall debut as Richie. A comic moment is provided during "Sing," in which Lesley Rauch's Kristine proves she can't sing to husband Al's (Ronnie Schronce) delightful in-tune counterpoint.

As Dianna, triply talented Jen Perillo serves up a humorous ode to method acting in "Nothing," dances superbly and delivers a heartfelt "What I Did For Love."

An accomplished actor, Kristi Ambrosetti has the requisite dance skills to be a convincing Cassie and proves a skilled choreographer designing Cassie's number "The Music and the Mirror." Ambrosetti's Cassie ignites her scenes with Jerry Vess' director Zach.

Vess conveys Zach's tortured ambivalence toward Cassie, with whom he shares a history, and plays the director's role with the right combination of affection and toughness toward the dancers.

Ashley Eihhorn's Val attacks "Dance: 10 Looks: 3" with gusto, humorously emphasizing her character's surgically enhanced attributes while revealing the number's underlying anti-feminist message on the value of talent.

Vince Kirk is strong as Paul, repeating his earlier portrayal of this sensitive dancer who is ashamed of having appeared in a drag show witnessed by his parents.

A Chesapeake Music Hall stalwart, the reliable Charlie Rogers plays Greg, delivering the required fancy footwork. Another consistently reliable performer is Shannon Benil, who plays Dance Captain Lori, a role that requires her to execute each step flawlessly, which Benil handles with customary zest.

Anderson continues to deliver whatever is required - co-directing, producing, choreographing, costuming, designing sets and serving as Chesapeake Music Hall's general manager.

Kudos to lighting designer Garrett R. Hyde for adding an extra measure of excitement in his brilliant lighting of the glitzy "One."

"A Chorus Line" continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons through Nov. 18.

Reservations: the box office at 410-626-7515 or 800-406-0306.

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