The first musical to explore the intimate stories of Broadway’s “gypsies,” 1975’s A Chorus Line forever changed the face of musical theater by revealing the hopes, fears, challenges, and dreams of a dozen and a half young dancers in dialog and song, in addition to dealing with issues of race and sexuality alongside big, flashy production numbers choreographed by the legendary Michael Bennett.

Rancho Cucamonga’s Lewis Family Playhouse now presents the Pulitzer Prize-winner as its fourth annual musical production, a Grade-A revival that more than lives up to the series’ “Broadway At The Gardens” moniker under the inspired direction of Ron Kellum and co-director Hector Guerrero.

With a record-breaking Broadway run of over 6000 performances and a grand total of nine Tony wins, it’s no wonder A Chorus Line (book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and concept and original direction/choreography by Bennett) has become a favorite of regional, school, and community theaters across the country.

That being said, A Chorus Line is a tough show to do right. It is, after all, the story of seventeen Broadway-caliber dancers, most of whom have New York and National Tour credits, and face it, about the only place you’ll find a stageful of this level triple threats is in a Broadway production, a First National Tour, or a major Equity regional production. There are theaters—a lot of them in fact—that should never even attempt A Chorus Line.

 Fortunately, the Lewis Family Playhouse is not one of them, its current production’s extraordinarily talented bunch of non-Equity performers coming astonishingly close to matching the caliber of the all-Equity Broadway National Tour which played the Ahmanson several years back.

The opening number “I Hope I Get It” still packs the same punch as ever, with its two-dozen auditioners executing those signature Bennett leaps as recreated—smashingly—by choreographer (and A Chorus Line vet) Guerrero.


Steven Rada sings and dances Mike’s “I Can Do That” with an adorable swagger. A fabulous Jayson Puls gets to deliver flamboyant Bobby’s monolog about growing up “different” (i.e. gay, though he never actually says so) in Buffalo, New York. “At the Ballet” has a divalicious Kai Chubb (Sheila) and the delightful duo of Alyssa Kennedy (Bebe) and Lindsay Kristine Anderson (Maggie) reminiscing in song and dance about the influence ballet has had on their lives. Theresa Murray couldn’t be more perkily adorable as tone-deaf Kristine in “Sing!”, backed up by her more vocally adept hubby Al (a golden-throated Juan Guillen). A series of three Montage sequences feature the nostalgic “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” “Mother” sung gorgeously by Anderson, and Richie’s brash “Gimme The Ball,” spotlighting the talents of the always dynamic Keenon Hooks.

Three of the women get big solo numbers. As Diana, Cassandra Murphy demonstrates her versatility in “Nothing,” the sassy Puerto Rican’s look back at her disastrous high school drama class with Mr. Karp, then shows off some of the best pipes in town in the iconic “What I Did For Love.” As the surgically enhanced Val, Chelsea Emma Franko brings down the house with a sensationally sexy “Dance Ten Looks Three.” As Cassie, the lone auditioner to have achieved a modicum of stardom, a terrific Adrianna Lyons recreates the moves inspired by the Broadway original, Donna McKechnie, in “The Music And The Mirror.”


The show’s standout dramatic moment belongs to Paul, whose Act Two monolog also provides the show’s toughest acting challenge. Reprising the role he played two years ago at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, Eric De Anda once again delivers Paul’s reminiscences about his post-high school dropout life as a teen dancer in drag with a spontaneity and honesty that prove heart-wrenching.

Completing the cast of competitors are a cocky-sexy Jason De Puy (Don), Oscar Gonzales (a deliciously theatrical Gregory), a sparklingly bubbly Kristen Lamoureux (Judy), Matt Wiley (cute and winning as Mark), and petite ball-of-fire Bety Le (Connie), each of whom nails his or her standout scene.

A mostly offstage Jason James does splendid work as director Zach, the character based on Bennett, and Kalen Sakima shows off topnotch dance skills as Zach’s assistant Larry.

Alison Boresi (Vicki), Jesus Guadarrama (Cut Male #4) Marcos Hernandes (Cut Male #3), Julie Kirkpatrick (Tricia), Ricardo Puentes (Butch), Katie Roche (Lois), and David White (Tom) dance terrifically in the show’s opening number before being sent off to audition for another show.


Contributing to the absolute professionalism of this CLO-caliber production is musical director extraordinaire David Lamoureux, conducting a sixteen-piece Broadway-ready pit orchestra.

The production’s set design (courtesy of Musical Theatre West) recreates the 1975 original, possibly the simplest in Broadway history—a bare stage backed with a wall of mirrors, lit with oodles of pizzazz by Randy Hodges. Costume designer Karen Fix Curry outfits the cast in those Theoni V. Aldredge-inspired designs we’ve come to associate with each character, with those gold lamé finale costumes provided by Theatre Company Of Upland. Andrew Nagy’s sound design couldn’t be sharper or clearer. V. Michelle Mierman scores points for her excellent makeup and hair designs.

Lorraine Lafferty is production stage manager, Patrick Hediger producer, and Tony Schondel technical coordinator.

This latest A Chorus Line is a reminder of just how great (and surprisingly timeless) this musical remains thirty-seven years after its Broadway debut. “Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow. We did what we had to do. Won’t forget, can’t regret what I did for love.” The creative team of the upcoming 3-D Theatricals production would do well to check out the Rancho Cucamonga cast, who more than deserve their standing ovation.

Lewis Family Playhouse, Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, 12505 Cultural Center Drive, Rancho Cucamonga.

–Steven Stanley
March 11, 2012
Photos: IsaacJamesCreative.com

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