A Chorus Line: High School Edition by Bordentown Regional High School in Bordentown, NJ
March 7, 2018
Review submitted by Lionel McCulloch of PA Leadership Charter School’s Center for Performing & Fine Arts
Artful arabesques, Broadway belting and caustic characters merge to provide the A-B-C’s of a professional dancer in Marvin Hamlisch’s award winning A Chorus Line: High School Edition. The high school edition, performed at Bordentown Regional High School doesn’t miss a beat as it turns a spotlight on the desperation, euphoria and flaws of theatrical casting.
Honest storytelling told through believable, emotional monologues, songs and most of all, dancing, A Chorus Line: High School Edition embodies living on the line. Based on the conception of choreographer Michael Bennett, the musical highlights the idea that in a tough industry, one mistake means it’s all over. The search for love, an identity and a chance at success is strikingly performed by a well-matched and very talented cast and design team.
The sixth longest-running Broadway musical, A Chorus Line describes the intensity of being a Broadway dancer while providing a small glimpse into the world of unappreciated artists. The show begins with a cattle call crowd of desperate dancers looking for their big shot, and the controlling director who wants to unmask them before casting his show.
Bordentown displayed a professional level of talent. Every student lifted each other’s performance, with their close to perfectly matched skills. Both dance ensemble and solo dancers alike were outstanding.
With such a strong ensemble it’s hard to pick out standout performances. Auditioner Cassie Fergusson played by Abigayle Harnum and the director Zach played by Jack Ashfield were incredibly believable. Early in the play it was clear they knew each other, but it wasn’t clear how. The actors subtle, but precise acting choices revealed much more than the words the characters said, showing a strong chemistry and understanding of the depth of the character’s relationship. “I Can Do That,” the story of Mike Costa, performed by Jon Domenech, acrobatically explored his transition into the world of dance from mesmerized little brother to professional, stealing the show early on. Varun Andrews’ monologue performance as Paul, bravely explaining the power he felt when he played women, and how his parents saw him because of it, was also a standout.
Within every scene, A Chorus Line delves deeper into the thoughts of each character. The lighting was a critical element to this exploration. A blinding institutional wash during chorus “auditions”, shifts to character specific colors and moods during confessions. The institutional lighting shows the characters as their stage selves, when they provide their stories via lies, routines, and emotional masks. Lighting designer Peter Heberling expertly lights the dark and hidden thoughts of the soloists as they finally reveal their true selves.
Due to fantastic design and the excellence of the cast, the lights and the ensemble of Bordentown Regional High School’s A Chorus Line: High School Edition were “one singular sensation.”
Review submitted by John Viggiano of PA Leadership Charter School’s Center for Performing & Fine Arts
A Chorus Line: High School Edition at Bordentown Regional High School was one singular sensation. The show tells the story of chorus dancers auditioning for a Broadway show. Along the way, their stories emerge and as the audition goes on, the stakes get even higher to book this show.
Bordentown’s production brought a new energy to a show that so many people know and love. The cast was able to maintain the energy throughout the whole production, which in this case, is not an easy task. The show requires heavy dancing during the whole course of the show. It was refreshing to see that there was not a weak link in the show, but rather that everyone was consistent with each other, which is what this production requires.
The cast as a whole, brought a fun and excited energy to the production, however, a few members of the cast really stood out among the line. Hannah Vliet, who played Sheila Bryant, brought a powerhouse presence to the sassy, yet sophisticated role. Isabella Mayo and Annissa Richard, who play Maggie Winslow and Diana Morales, respectively, blew us away with their different, yet equally amazing voices. Numbers like “At the Ballet,” and “Nothing,” really showcased their voices. Varun Andrews, who played the role of Paul San Marco, was able to really connect with the strong, but fragile character well, and was able to deliver Paul’s iconic monologue with great truthful moments. Cassie, played by Abigayle Harnum, brought great energy to the famous number “The Music and the Mirror,” dancing and singing her way all around an empty stage, with just her on it.
The technical elements of the production were also very consistent. The lighting brought a very retro, 70s’ look to the production. During numbers such as “Montage Pts. 1-4,” and “At the Ballet,” the use of color and angles of light really made the cast pop on the stage. The sound was consistent most of the time, everyone could be heard clearly, however I would have loved to see a little more balance between cast mic levels and orchestra levels. The orchestra was also for the most part consistent, however there were some moments that were a little out of tune or off beat. Overall, however, all of these technical elements were of good quality.
Bordentown Regional’s A Chorus Line: High School Edition was one the most unique shows for a high school to do, and the cast, crew, and production team were not just able to pull it off, but do well with a production of this level.