CHORUS LINE at Kelsey: One Singular Sensation!

by Jean Brenner

The cast of Playful Theatre Productions' phenomenal rendition of A CHORUS LINE running at Kelsey Theatre through May 6.

Be forewarned.  I am going to rave about this production!

A CHORUS LINE opened Friday night at the Kelsey Theatre, Mercer County Community College, New Jersey, 37 years after it first opened on Broadway in 1975.

My family and I were four of the very fortunate people to see it that first year. We were impacted by its message while being totally entertained by the music and dance. So powerful was the show that I took my high school theatre students to see it later that same year.

During those first two A CHORUS LINE encounters, I remember thinking: “This show requires so much good singing and especially good dancing, that community and high school theatres never will be able to do it well.” Therefore, over the years, I have avoided seeing non-professional productions.

Playful Theatre Productions has proven me wrong. With the right combination of people, it can be done in community theatre. They did it, and did it spectacularly well!

Under the direction of Frank Ferrara, choreographer Dani Tucci-Jurago, and music director Shannon Ferrara, the ensemble cast performed A CHORUS LINE beautifully. Originally directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, these directors have managed to assemble an expanded cast that does justice to the script. Casting the right people is at least 75% of a show’s success, and the directors have done it so very well. (Told you I would rave!)

But, the show is not just about dancers who sing. It’s about performers and their devotion to their work, told so touchingly in the now-familiar song, “What I Did for Love.”

After the initial “cut,” assistant choreographer, Larry (Koren Zander) puts remaining dancers through a grueling audition of jazz, ballet, and tap while director Zach (Frank Ferrara) tells the dancers to share something about themselves, quite a challenge for many of the characters, who reveal some rather strange stories, often telling them song.

Zach’s intention to hire only 4 men and 4 women, sets the “barre” high for a gut-wrenching cut leaving only 8 people at the end.

With so many good, talented people in the show, it is difficult to highlight just a few, but certain actors demand special mention:

Nichole Farine-Machin is outstanding in her interpretation of Zach’s former love, Cassie. She sings well, dances well, and shows appropriate emotion for her character, desperate to perform again after a two-year dry spell. Zach thinks she is too talented for the chorus, but Cassie convinces him to let go of their past together and hire her. The tension between them plays well.

Farine-Machin has an impressive resumé: Locally, she performed at the soon-to-reopen Bucks County Playhouse. Among her many roles she played Mary Magdalene in JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR.

Another major role is that of sophisticated, attitudinal Sheila, played with just the right amount of confidence and superiority by Colleen McMahon Skillman who has been dancing since she was four years old, appearing professionally at age of seven in SLEEPING BEAUTY in a live telecast from Lincoln Center. She has performed in NYC, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas, and she appeared as a Minsky Girl in the TV film GYPSY with Bette Midler.

Sasha Saco plays Diana, singing convincingly the poignant number, “Nothing.”

From the tallest guy to the smallest girl, these performers “nailed it” so well. The audience was held at rapt attention during the 2 hour no-intermission performance.

Because this is primarily an ensemble show, all the other fine performers, need to be commended. Each has extensive stage experience: Allwyn Baskin (Bobby), John Boccanfuso (Greg), Wesley Cappiello (Mark), Isaac Dayley (Swing), Jaimie Geddes (Val), Ashley Hencken (Bernice), Christopher Kamps (Don), Jason Mangano (Al), Jaimie McMillin (Trisha), Chris Palmer (Roy), De Haven Rogers (Frank), Dominic Sannelli (Paul/Dance Captain), Heather Santos, (Kristin), Jenna Scannelli (Maggie), Mari Skoultchi (Connie), Samuel Spoare (Mike) Rachel Tovar (Vicki), Stephanie Venanzi (Judy Turner), Kyrus Keenan Westcott (Richie), and Elissa Zavodnick (Bebe.)

To treat yourself to this performance, call the box office at the Kelsey Theatre quickly!  Playing only a total of two weekends, the performances are sold out or nearly sold out already! On opening night, would-be ticket buyers were disappointed to be turned away.

Book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Playful Theatre Productions
at Kelsey Theatre – Mercer County Community College
West Windsor, New Jersey
April 27, 28, May 4, 5 at 8 PM
April 29, May 6 at 2 PM

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