Kicking it up
It's been called the best musical ever, and you'd have a hard time convincing the 1,500 Islanders who enjoyed the four performances of "A Chorus Line" over the weekend otherwise. The buzz about the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School production of the Broadway classic was everywhere in the air. From the dump to the gas pump, the coffee shop to the produce aisle, one question echoed on and on and on: "Have you seen the play?"
It caught the attention of everyone, not just the families and friends of those who worked so hard to put the show on. When I ran into Ray and Lillian Kellman of Chilmark on Sunday, they told me they'd seen the revival of the show on Broadway a few weeks ago, but that they enjoyed the high school production more - high praise from former New Yorkers who know their theater.
Under the direction of Kate Murray, the cast of 53 made smooth work of a challenging show that tells the story of 17 dancers moving from initial auditions to the opening night of a Broadway show. Supported by a fine orchestra made of local musicians, the student actors took up the challenge with guts and gusto, and their enthusiasm filled the hall and spilled out over the audience. They looked like they were having fun, and we were too.
But plenty of hard work had obviously gone into the production, on stage and off. It was a disciplined, tight performance through and through. In several scenes, for instance, many actors had to stay still on stage while one of their number covered a solo down front. This kind of support and coordination doesn't come naturally. It's the result of dedication and hard work, and when it all comes together, as it did here, it makes the acting look almost effortless - a mark of a topnotch performance in any endeavor.
It doesn't hurt that it's a great show to start with, one with a compelling story line set to great music, but not every great professional production translates well to amateur theater, let alone high school theater. "A Chorus Line" lends itself to most levels of acting, however, as long as the talent is there. The cast that showed its stuff on the high school stage this weekend was loaded with talent. They could sing, they could dance, and they could act - and the emphasis is definitely on "they." "A Chorus Line" is all about a group effort, and it takes a group - a team, really - of performers to pull it off. Terms like heading the cast, or leading lady, or simply star aren't applicable to "A Chorus Line" - a perfect vehicle for showcasing the talents of several performers. And there were no dim lights in this galaxy of young stars.
It made for a memorable couple of hours for the audience, time spent far away from Martha's Vineyard in mid-February. In her remarks after the final performance Saturday night, Ms. Murray thanked everyone involved in the show for the work they'd put in and for the support of the community at large. With a smile on her face as wide as the stage, she ended by saying, "Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night on Martha's Vineyard in the winter, you know? Thank you!"