By Barry Reszel
September 27, 2018, should go down in United States history as a sickeningly overdue turning point for women being seen, heard, acknowledged and believed.
It’s the day a psychology professor from California, unknown by the masses just a few short days beforehand, ravaged her life by testifying against a nominee to the Supreme Court for sexually assaulting her when they both were teenagers.
Christine Blasey Ford is an American hero—the latest example of #MeToo and spark for #WhyIDidn’tReport.
And after being consumed and compelled by her testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, the opening of Metropolis Performing Arts Centre’s A Chorus Line that evening could not have been more poignant—admittedly with lower-stakes if still important subject matter.
The 1976 multi-Tony winning musical (nine, including Best Musical) that also took the Pultizer Prize for drama that year focuses on the audition of 17 dancers for a Broadway musical ensemble. With music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and a book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante, A Chorus Line is set on a barren theatre stage and delves into the personal stories of performers and the show’s choreographer as they detail what made them become dancers. (A full plot summary, character analysis and production history may be read here.)
What makes this production particularly insightful in light of political events is that at its core, A Chorus Line is about honoring one another’s truths. As a community, musical theatre artists do that exceptionally well; other societal groups could take a lesson from them.
But even more specifically, this show with this cast of young, non-Equity performers in a lovely-though-relatively-unknown suburban venue with this staff working their asses off to gain a little traction among Chicagoland musical theatre patrons… Let’s just say some stars align.
Smartly directed by Robin M. Hughes, music directed by Kenneth McMullen and choreographed by Christie Kerr, the production clips at a good pace, is terrifically sung (stellar ensemble singing is a definite take-away), superbly acted and well danced. McMullen’s seven-member band is fully professional. Everything will tighten even more with repetition. If there’s a production nit, it comes in the overall sound quality, which simply needs to be fuller a lot more of the time.
There are certainly highlights, personal to all longtime fans of this title. “At the Ballet” and “What I Did for Love” are two favorites here. But be certain that Metropolis puts on an overall solid production of this musical theatre hall of famer.
The real story here, though, is that there are real stories here.
The characters portrayed are not all that different from the actors playing them. And so, let’s get to know them just a little better.
Jordan Beyeler (Kristine) is from Wichita, Kansas and majored in dance at Columbia College.
Chih-Jou Cheng plays Connie, is from Taiwan and is making her Chicagoland theatrical debut.
Lars Ebsworth plays Butch and is a trans/genderqueer actor and published solo performance writer.
Sabrina Edwards plays Judy, has performed throughout the Chicago suburbs and is debuting at Metropolis with this show.
Madeleyne Forrester plays Tricia, graduated in musical theatre from Coloumbia and is making her professional debut here.
Hannah Griffith plays Vicki also graduated from Columbia in Musical theatre and recently performed The Drowsy Chaperone.
Luke Halpern plays Paul, received his BFA from Tulane and recently relocated to Chicago from New Orleans. (Editor’s note: his second-act monologue is award-worthy.)
Dan Hamman plays Al, graduated from Columbia and is a Metropolis returnee (Young Frankenstein).
Sara Haverty plays Bebe is a College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati graduate who most recently performed in BrightSide Theatre’s Hairspray.
Daniel Hurst is playing Mike for the first time, though performing in this iconic musical for his third.
Joseph Kuchey plays Greg, serves as the company’s dance captain and has performed at Metropolis in Young Frankenstein and Spamalot.
Brian Kulaga plays the show’s choreographer, Zach, and recently performed in Chicago Theatre Workshop’s Disaster!
Ivory Leonard IV plays Richie, graduated from Florida A&M University and was recently seen in Porchlight’s Memphis. (Editor’s note: Leonard is simply one of those gifted actors who draws the audience’s eye.)
Ben F. Locke plays Mark, has numerous area theatre credits and is currently seeking representation. (Editor’s note: Another reason for you to see this show, agents.)
Conor McGarry plays Tom, has a bunch of local credits and is excited to be at Metropolis.
Jessica Miret plays Diana. she’s a graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts and has her career detailed at JessicaMiret.com.
Mollyanne Nunn plays Val and returns to Metropolis for a third time. Recent performances include Hairspray at Paramount and Lysistrata Jones at Refuge.
Joshua A. Patterson plays Frank and is a College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati graduate. His credits are extensive and include stints with the Utah Shakespearean Festival and Jackson Hole (WY) Playhouse.
Casiena Raethier plays Cassie. She returns to a role she played nearly 10 years ago. Her degree is in acting from UW Stevens Point.
Kara Schoenhoffer plays Sheila. In addition to performing, the Lima, OH native and Ball State University graduate teaches and choreographs at Infinity Arts Academy.
Nick Shirer plays Larry. Hi’s an alumnus of Oberlin College and has danced two seasons with Cocodaco Dance Project in Evanston.
Lance Spencer plays Bobby. He recently performed in Porchlight’s Chess and Greenhouse Theatre’s Barney the Elf and is excited to be in his first show in Arlington Heights.
Laura Sportiello plays Maggie and is a Ball State University graduate. She’s performed throughout Chicagoland and unabashedly performs “for the beauty of life!”
Thomas E. Squires plays Roy. He’s worked throughout Chicagoland and devotes his performance “to every cut dancer who keeps coming back.”
Kaleb Van Rijswijck plays Don. He’s a recent graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts, has an already impressive local resume and is making his Metropolis debut.
Amanda Zgonina play Lois. she’s a musical theatre graduate of North Central College and trained in dance at DuPage Dance Academy.
These are the local actors who mere weeks ago sang, “I really need this job” and “I hope I get it” to Hughes and Kerr. (Editor’s note: It has to feel surreal to audition for A Chorus Line.)
They got it. And now it’s up to patrons to see, hear, acknowledge and believe in them, too.
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre presents “A Chorus Line” through November 3 at 111 West Campbell Street, Arlington Heights. More information and tickets are available here.