The cheers and ecstatic audience response as well as the glowing

reviews that greeted "A Chorus Line" when it opened Off-Broadway at

the Public Theater in 1975 offered some indication of it becoming an

unprecedented hit. But no one could have predicted just how big a hit

it would become. The show struck an emotional chord in adults, teens,

and especially theater enthusiasts. But I suspect what put it over the

top was that it was the first time that the public got a glimpse into

the hearts, minds, and souls of the dancers we had taken for granted

in show after show. Will a whole new generation respond to this

vibrant and remarkably fresh revival, its first since it closed on

Broadway in 1990, that has danced its way into the Gerald Schoenfeld

Theater for what should be another long time?

That we can still feel responsive to the passionately shared personal

life stories of dancers says something about the durability of one of

the most emotional musicals you are ever likely to see. Even for those

who don’t feel much rapport with the difficulties that mark the life

of the dancers, in show business called "gypsies," the musical goes

way beyond feeling like a music and dance-propelled group therapy

session. These special "gypsies," originally a group of handpicked

proteges of Michael Bennett (who conceived, choreographed, and

directed them in a workshop-initiated project) came to be the subject

of one of the most extraordinary successes in Broadway history.

The show, basically a series of lyrically developed confessionals,

remains the most genuinely impassioned show biz story ("Gypsy"

notwithstanding) in the canon of American Musical Theater.

Many associated with the original production are keeping the flame

alive. Baayork Lee, who played Connie in the original production,

where she also served as an assistant choreographer, has re-staged the

show throughout the world. She has splendidly re-staged Bennett’s

original choreography for this production. Bob Avian, who

co-choreographed the original production, has come out of retirement

to direct, and meticulously so. And who would dare change or alter

designer Robin Wagner’s original mirrored settings or the costumes by

Theoni V. Aldredge?

Avian’s direction and Lee’s staging continue to reflect the sure hands

of theater artists who care deeply. You don’t necessarily have to let

go of your memories of principals who left indelible impressions. But

these new "gypsies" bring a major emotional force to their individual

roles that is thrilling.

Even before its authors, James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, had begun

to give dramatic structure to the hours of revealing taped

conversations between the director and the dancers, Bennett was

rehearsing his astounding company in a highly and provocatively

conceptualized audition process. Added to this was Marvin Hamlisch’s

(best) score (with dynamic lyrics by Edward Kleban). The process

continues, as does the character of the director within the musical.

He is Zach (given a callous and blunt portrayal by Michael Berresse),

the demanding and aggressive choreographer who leads the dancers

through the demanding routines and also, often painfully, out of their

defensive emotional shells.

Amazingly, the funny/sad stories weave effectively through the music

and dance sequences with a strong central narrative thrust. Even the

strongly characterized Zach’s emotional involvement with Cassie

(Charlotte d’Amboise), as revealed through the dance-spotlighted "The

Music and the Mirror" is designated as just another one of the show’s

more emotionally-wrenching episodes. D’Amboise is not only touching

but also terrific as Zach’s former lover and the "special" dancer who

has tried unsuccessfully to become a star but who now wants

desperately to get this job in the chorus ("I’d be proud to be one of

them").

The success of this and any "A Chorus Line" must be measured by the

effectiveness of its individual performers, as well as by its

collective brilliance. Deidre Goodwin comes on strong and aggressively

sexy as the "almost 30" Sheila. Natalie Cortez, as the tennis

shoe-tapping Diana, put over the hit ballad "What I Did for Love,"

with Bronxian-incorporated overtones. Continuing to be psychologically

compelling is the half-funny half-sad monologue by Jason Tam, as the

Cyd Charisse-wannabe, Paul. Other performers who stand out include the

tall, lanky Ken Alan, who, as Bobby, decides during a low point in his

life that "to commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant."

This is a valentine to all the "gypsies" – those relentlessly

committed dancers who appear in show after show mostly unrecognized –

who train and audition and hope to make it big but who rarely ever

make it into the solo spotlight. This gives me the opportunity to

mention the stand-out performance by Jessica Lee Goldyn. The blonde

and shapely Goldyn, who is making her Broadway debut, steps into the

spotlight as Val to put over the hilarious show-stopper "Dance: Ten;

Looks: Three." With all her commodities and talent in high relief, she

alone gives us the image of a dancer who could step out of the chorus

to become a star. To be fair, let’s say that all 26 performers are

stars in their own right. Bravi to all. ***

– Simon Saltzman

"A Chorus Line," Gerald Shoenfeld Theater, 236 W. 45th Street. $85 to

$110. 212-239-6200.

The key: **** Don’t miss; *** You won’t feel cheated; ** Maybe you

should have stayed home; * Don’t blame us.

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