BWW Review: Riverside Center for the Performing Arts' A CHORUS LINE Captures Lightning in a Bottle

by Jeremy Bustin Aug. 7, 2018  

Riverside Center for the Performing Arts has a real treat for its 100th production with the classic Broadway musical A Chorus Line. From the iconic opening number to the show-stopping finale, 22 triple-threat performers work tirelessly and prove this production is something really special. There have been recent tours and productions in Virginia, but this is the "One" audiences really must see.

For those unfamiliar, A Chorus Line tosses the audience into the middle of an audition for a Broadway musical. Based on interviews with real performers, the Tony-winning classic offers insight into the struggles and conflicts of musical theatre actors, most of whom are destined to remain in the background. In Riverside Center's production, audiences truly connect with and feel the internal conflict and insecurities of the actors.

Under the masterful direction and choreography of Penny Ayn Maas and Justin Amellio, the dramatic moments are just as compelling as the high-energy choreography in this two-hour production. The production really shines during ensemble numbers like "Montage" and "One"-a credit to Angie Benson's remarkable musical direction.

DT Willis' bare stage set design is a masterpiece. Mirrors descend and retract throughout the production, and the finale' design offers a "singular sensation" of its own. Michael Jarrett's lighting design is exciting, using blues, pinks, purples and whites to add drama and shine a spotlight on each individual story. Bethany Galyen's sound design is impressive and pinpoints even the subtlest vocal interjections throughout the show.

Maas' and Amellio's choreography is so precise and uniform, there are several moments audiences see a single line moving in sync rather than the individuals on the stage. In a production where all 22 performers shine in their own right, it's a challenge to highlight every performance.

The combined vocal and dramatic talents of Sydney Kirkegaard, Annalese Fusaro and Mackenna Milbourn make "At the Ballet" one of many great moments in this top-drawer production. Sixteen-year old Annalese Fusaro is a standout as Maggie, showcasing a powerful voice well beyond her years. Bridget Lundberg's believably off-key voice complements Jonathan Hardin's beautiful vocals during the hilarious "Sing."

As Zach, J. Clayton Winters shows that he's a very capable dancer as well as a charismatic actor. Stephanie Wood's Judy is wonderfully quirky, and Mackenna Milbourn brings the right balance of bitchiness to the role of Sheila. Thomas Delgado is spot-on as Greg.

Anthony Cosby's Richie is high-strung and nimble, with a fantastic voice, and has an electrifying turn during the show-stopping "Montage." Melinette Pallares is perfectly cast as Diana Morales and shines during "Nothing" and "What I Did for Love." As Valerie, Abigail Gardner dances, cartwheels and splits, all while singing, during the crowd-pleasing "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three."

Nicole Oberleitner's Cassie is passionate as an actress desperate for work and shows great agility and flexibility as a dancer. "The Music and the Mirror" is a highlight of the night. Sam Brackley is at once charming and then heartbreaking as Paul, bearing his soul and delivering a tear-jerker of a monologue during the second act.

Standout performances, knockout vocals and thrilling original Broadway choreography make A Chorus Line at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts the must-see musical of the year.