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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 27, 2010

'Chorus Line' sparkles with talent, freshness

Special to The Advertiser


7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, through March 20

Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter


438-4480, www.armytheatre.com

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In the nearly 35 years since its Broadway opening, "A Chorus Line" has imprinted itself on fans of musical theater. Its songs, dances and starkly powerful production images allow little room for new interpretation.

So each new production has the obligation to revive the show by replicating the original concept while giving it fresh breath and the sense of new discovery.

But yet, it is not a formula show that directs itself. Everybody involved has got to work hard. In the current Army Theatre production, director Vanita Rae Smith makes sure that they do.

The ACT production, with music direction by Peter Rucci and choreography by Grace Bell, is crisp and tight, capturing the spirit of the show and giving it the necessary "first time" illusion. Enough of the elements work to make it worth seeing even if you've seen it before.

"A Chorus Line" was designed as an ensemble show and that is definitely the strong suit in this production. The full-cast vocal and dance numbers are well-controlled and executed, and the shared audition experience forges a strong bond among the individual characters that has the audience rooting for all of them collectively in the big finale.

But the show has always offered solo turns as well, and many of them are excellently filled out in the ACT version.

Autumn Ogawa as Cassie, the former star attempting a comeback, is a pleasure to watch in her "Music and the Mirrors" number, and during the battering she endures to not stand out among the other dancers in the line.

Chris Villasenor does justice to his emotional monologue as Paul, the young gay man who performed as a female "pony" while learning that being a man is not simply acting "butch."

Renee Garcia Hartenstein brings a big voice to "Nothing" and leads the company on the signature "What I Did for Love." Jody Bill shows real star quality on "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three," by simultaneously bringing power, character and excellent articulation to the lyrics.

Dwayne Sakaguchi sets a high mark early in the show with "I Can Do That," while Lavour Vernon Addison gives an adrenaline rush to "Gimme The Ball." Robyn Franklin and Leonard Villanueva display nice comic timing on "Sing."

Orchestra and microphones are well balanced and dramatic lighting favors moody shadows and special spots. The overall production illustrates that good material will attract talent, and, with capable technical support, should attract audiences as well.