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Mike Fischer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saw 10 shows and has ranked them, less as a reductive prescription than as an invitation to conversation.
1) Macbeth: “one’s deepest and darkest thoughts emerge into what little light there ever is; watching this world unfold, one feels an unsettling, primeval connection to characters who are both a millennium old (this production is set in eleventh-century Scotland) and a reflection of ourselves and our neighbors.”
2) All My Sons: “…marvel anew at how much his play still has to say to us and the way we live now…”
3) A Chorus Line: from the tryout at the top of the show to the symbolic, outward facing circle the ensemble creates near journey’s end, we’re reminded that “love’s what we’ll remember.”
4) Bunny: ” I’m not pulling punches when predicting a rousing success for this darkly funny and also wrenching account of a woman (beautifully played by Maev Beaty) in her late thirties, looking back on a lonely life in which her need to be needed results in numerous sexual relationships.”
Paul E. Robinson writes about both “A Little Night Music” and “A Chorus Line.”
Before I arrived in Stratford for my annual review of the festival’s music theatre productions, I was especially looking forward to Gary Griffin’s production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. In its history, the Stratford Festival has programmed only one other Sondheim show — Into the Woods in 2005 — although its vastly experienced ensemble is perhaps uniquely equipped to do justice to many of Sondheim’s sophisticated works. As it happens, I found Stratford’s A Little Night Music disappointing. On the other hand, I had limited expectations for A Chorus Line, and it turned out to be sensational in every respect.
In a review that includes 5 shows Jones noted:…the lighting design also is unusually theatrical and exciting, with spotlights constantly shifting and picking out the needy and the desperate. It’s a bit much for purists, perhaps — especially since Feore necessarily has jettisoned the original Michael Bennett choreography — but the show still is suffused with humanity, with melodic fragility and, most of all, with lives spent bowed to the wills and pernicious choices of others.
The show has one of the most electric openings of any musical. It was great in Michael Bennett’s legendary original production, and it’s great again in Donna Feore’s Stratford staging. …Feore’s choreography, here and elsewhere, doesn’t seem all that different from what I remember of Bennett’s, but that’s hardly a bad thing.
In the 1970’s the character’s life stories were poignant and shocking, but in 2016 they do not resonate with the same weight… Anyone in the biz may feel a strong connection to this show, but modern audiences are not likely to feel an emotional tug at all beyond that of nostalgia…The orchestra led by Laura Burton is in high gear from the first note to the last, and the entire ensemble of dancers shimmy and shake their groove thing all over the bare stage.
The musical production under the baton of Laura Burton, features an orchestra of 19 musicians and 29 singer-dancers of exceptional talent. It ranks as one of the best ensemble pieces I’ve seen in years. Everyone on stage has huge talents and the potential to be a star in any other musical production.
In the pivotal role of Cassie, Dayna Tietzen seems tentative in her acting and not strong enough in her singing or dancing….I also had concerns with Juan Chioran as Zach….When Zach questions the dancers about themselves, Chioran seems perfunctory, as if Zach is not listening or cares about the answer. Now that can’t be right… If there isn’t that engagement during the questioning, then Zach being kind and concerned about a hurt dancer later does not ring true.
Bennett’s valentine to the nameless, faceless kids in the chorus line is a mixture of tenderness and tough love — and tempered by a sad irony…for too much of the evening, I was also conscious of the fact that, seated as I was in the best seats in the centre of the
auditorium, the action was primarily being directed towards my privileged section of the house…In brief the challenges of the Festival Theatre stage were only occasionally being met. Essentially, one felt one was watching a proscenium show.
Standouts among the group include Matt Alfano as Mike, who starts the show off with such a fantastically athletic solo tap number in “I Can Do That” that nothing later ever quite reaches so high a level…Donna Feore’s choreography is as athletic and diverse as usual and combines influences from jazz to ballet to ballroom.
What makes this “A Chorus Line” even more special is that it is the first time the estate of the original director, Michael Bennett, has allowed the show to be performed on something other than a straight, proscenium stage (a traditional, “hole in the wall” performing space). The director and choreographer, Donna Feore, pitched the idea of the thrust stage and it has transformed the production from a far-away show to an intimate feeling of being in an audition room with an ensemble of dancers.
The most touching monologue comes from Paul, who talks about performing in drag shows when he was a teenager and one day being found out by his parents. After all the frenetic movement of the production, Conor Scully wins over the audience with near-perfect stillness.
In a brilliantly self-aware performance McLellan delivers this sexist material while commenting ironically on it: she sees the patriarchy for what it is and is beating it at its own game. McLellan is (pardon the expression) the full package: a great singer, dancer and actor who justly earned the biggest cheer from the opening-night crowd.
All of the components have come together like never before. It is a tribute to Feore’s inventiveness with and understanding of the skill sets (many of which are extraordinary) of the 30-member troupe that pays off in spades. The star of the show most certainly is the ensemble whose enthusiasm and desire to bring down the house is so infectious that the entire audience was immediately swept up in the event and seldom wavered from admiring the result.
Stratford veteran Juan Chioran plays director Zach, and his command of the stage and the performers is powerful….Tietzen’s Cassie looks the part of a star dancer returning to NYC seeking a fresh start, and she has a beautiful voice and exquisite dance technique.