More Than One Sensation: Young Starrs Theater Company’s A CHORUS LINE

by Lesley Grigg

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. 

(L. to R.) Jaron Battle, Max Beckman, Melissa Price, Thane Madsen, Joe Mele; members of the cast of A CHORUS LINE, an outstanding all teen production by Young Starrs Theater Company.

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.

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
Temple University
Ambler Campus
Ambler, PA



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leslie November 18, 2010 - 12:58 am

I’d like to first commend you on your recognition, and positive regards of the Young StarrsTheater Company. I strongly agree that Judi Pezola, and her creative team have worked diligently to develop an organization that not only allows youth to pursue their passions, but teach and nurture each student,in a positive and professional manner.This production was truly a tribute to the dedication she exemplifies,instills and expects from her “starrs”.It was absolutely amazing to see these young actors transform into their respective characters.This was simply awesome rendition of A Chorus Line .
I would however like to inquire about your perception of a “standout” performance. Since you are the professional critic, what constitutes “standout”?Perhaps your professional opinion my help me understand, but more importantly provide some insight as to what my son could do to meet your criteria of “standout” .I’ve pondered this question repeatedly since reading your review.True, I am mom,but I am one of my son’s toughest critics.He was absolutely phenomenal !!Three vocal performances, one including a very high energy precision dance routine, among other major theatrical contributions. And from the bombardment of spectators compliments,emails, and call from an top casting agent this week,I have difficulty understanding what you failed to see, Not standout”” ???
Please understand that this is not to discredit any of the other cast members. Everyone did a spectacular job.And I too agree that most of the performers you selected to acknowledge were equally exceptional.
I do realize that your opinion is yours, and everyone else has theirs as well. I truly welcome and anxiously await your response.

Laqueta Lynn November 18, 2010 - 1:30 pm

I too saw a phenominal performance by the Young Starrs Theater Company’s “Chorus Line”. I do agree with most of your extra acknowledgements however I feel you clearly missed an exceptional performance of Richie(Jaron Battle) once Richie (Jaron Battle) hit the stage he came alive with an exuberant amount of energy and enthumsiasm. One of his solos , What I did for Love was truely magical you couldn’t help feel his compassion through song. I seen professional stage performance of Chorus Line and unless the character who portrayed Richie was just mediocre he was always mentioned for his engery and how his character helped moved the show along. I know the public will be seeing more of Jaron Battle in the future. At Least I’ll say it Jaron, Job well done.

Lesley December 8, 2010 - 10:51 am

Thank you for your comments! Many of the actors did an exceptional job, and I did write “some” of the standouts. I wish I could have mentioned everyone in the cast, but since it was a large group that would have been a very long article. I commented on the talent that caught my eye and that in my opinion stood out from the rest, meaning gave a performance I’ve never seen from talent of this age. I wasn’t saying no one else did a great job, I just didn’t want to weigh the article down by naming every single person. I hope you understand and don’t take it personally.


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