Nine days, that’s all it took to put together a production full of broadway style song and dance with 38 middle and high school students from 20 different schools, all with various levels of theater experience.
I must admit that going in knowing it was a teen production of A Chorus Line, I didn’t have the highest of expectations. Once I entered the auditorium I was snapped back to my school days in the theater when I saw a lobby full of adults carrying celebratory flowers and ordering “kiss the cast” fundraisers. However, when the music started and the curtain opened on a stage full of brightly outfitted cast members dancing together with more sync than some popular pop groups, it was clear that I had underestimated the level of talent.
Even though the stage was full of teens, many of them carried themselves with grace and poise beyond their years. Their broadway quality voices also made them sound much more mature and authentic. When each character went down the line introducing themselves as young adults in their 20s, I actually believed some of them. Some of the actors transformed themselves so well into their character, and their monologues and dialogue was so natural, I forgot I was watching community theater at times.
After the show I was told that part of their nine rehearsal days, from just 1-5pm on Sunday afternoons, was spent learning about characterization. That’s right, not only did these kids have to learn their lines, songs and choreography, but they actually learned how to ACT as well! Surprisingly, I’ve never heard of any other production company that does that, but from some of the stellar performances witnessed in this group it looks like it’s working for them.
I give director, Judi Starr Pezola, a lot of credit for going above and beyond in getting it done in such a short time with so many short attention spans. Choreographer, Jamie Lipskin also did a fantastic job of showing off all the members of the cast without making it look too obvious in the dance numbers. Even as the curtain was late in closing at the end, everyone kept on kicking, which not only showed stamina, but also a level of professionalism you don’t see in many young theater companies. The only time I could tell there were teens on stage was when the curtain was closed and I could hear their backstage conversations.
Of course, some of the lines were changed to make the show more kid friendly, like in Val’s Dance: Ten; Looks: Three number, but Becca Boyden made up for it with tasteful body language. It almost seemed ironic when the company sang about more fitting topics, like saying goodbye to their adolescence. It was like watching them all grow up on stage, right in front of the audiences’ eyes.
Some of the standout performances include Harley Steiger, as Cassie, whose natural stage presence and triple threat abilities raised the bar for the rest of her cast mates. Many did rise to the occasion, such as Thane Madsen, who gave a touching and emotional monologue as Paul. Amanda Spivak was also believable as Diana, and gave just enough feeling during her rendition of Nothing. I wish I could bottle Adrianna Marino’s energy as Connie and Kari Lochstoer’s confidence as Sheila. Sometimes there are only one or two characters that seem to carry a show, but there’s certainly more than one singular sensation in the Young Starrs Theater Company.
A CHORUS LINE
Book by James Kirkland and Nicolas Dante
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Directed by Judi Starr Pezola
November 11-14, 2010
Young Starrs Theater Company