Roy Berko royberko at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 15 23:37:27 PDT 2003


Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association)


Lorain County Times--Westlaker Times--Lakewood News
Times--Olmsted-Fairview Times	

In 1975 I went to New York to see Lorain County
Community College graduate Chrissy Wilczak in the
Broadway production of ‘A CHORUS LINE.’ The Elyrian
had been in the off-Broadway rendition of the show
whose book was also written by an Elyrian--James
Kirkwood.  That production was a seminal theatrical

Each time I see a production of the musical I wonder
if my emotional illusion will be broken.  Oft times it
is.  This is a hard show to stage, especially for a
non-professional cast.  I need not have worried about
The Porthouse Theatre production.  Under the able
direction of Victoria Bussert, with choreography by
the gifted MaryAnn Black, "A CHORUS LINE’ kicks high. 
It is a wonderful experience.

Based on true stories of the original off-Broadway
cast, which Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante wove into a
compelling story, and augmented with music by Marvin
Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, the show tells
the tale of trying out for a musical.  The show is an
audition--an audition of dancers to be in the chorus. 
It is filled with humor, pathos, and explosive visual

The elements of the musical score are legends.  Songs
like the opening number, "I Hope I Get It," "At the
Ballet," and "One" have become classics.  The visual
images of a line of dancers, dressed in white spangled
tuxedos doing high kicks is etched in the minds of all
theatre junkies.  The use of a wall of  mirrors to
reflect the images of the dancers’ inner souls to the
audience is a touch of staging genius. 

The winner of nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize
for Drama, the show has all the elements that make for
an exciting and entertaining evening of theatre.  The
elements are there, but in weak hands, the show can
seem laborious.  Laborious is not the word to describe
the high powered Porthouse staging.

This is not to say that this is a perfect production. 
It isn’t.  But the weaknesses--some questionable
characterizations and some uneven singing and
dancing--get lost in the excitement of this young cast
that has a clear idea of how to wow an audience.

An ensemble piece, there are no real stars in the
show.  Certain people, do, however stand out.  As he
has proven time after time, Kristopher Thompson-Bolden
explodes onto a stage.  He captivates an audience with
his enthusiasm, fine singing and electric dancing. 
Kaitlyn Black’s rendition of "Dance: Ten; Looks:
Three" was a show stopper.  Lisa Kuchmen, Kelly
Meneer, and Lauren Champlin melded perfectly in "At
the Ballet." Kuchnen’s portrayal of Sheila was right
on.  Jessica Cope has a powerful and compelling voice,
as was displayed in both "Nothing" and the  poignant,
"What I Did For Love." Too bad her acting doesn’t
quite match her singing abilities.  Matt Lillo’s "I
Can Do That" was an audience pleaser, but he could
have toned down the mincing in other scenes.  Eli
Zoller did a delightful segment on the trama of coming
of age.   

The highlight acting scene was Gary Walker’s long
soliloquy.  He brought tears while recounting his
character’s self-perceived shameful life. Kelly
Simmons and Joshua Gordon did an engaging rendition of
"Sing." Gordon has a strong singing voice.  Daniel
Puck’s mimed striptease pleased those looking for eye

Combine a talented cast, focused directing, creative
choreography by a professional who performed one of
the roles in the Broadway production.  Mix those
elements with a fine orchestra, a precise conductor, a
well conceived set, well-conceived lighting and
well-designed costumes.  The results?  Porthouse
Theatre’s must see production of "A CHORUS LINE."

The show runs Tuesdays through Saturday evenings and
Sunday matinees through June 28 at the Porthouse
Theatre, located on the grounds of the Blossom Music
Center in Cuyahoga Falls.  The 500-seat, outdoor,
covered pavilion theatre is a wonderful setting. 
There isn’t a bad seat in the house.  For tickets to
the show which run $15 to $22, call 1-800-304-2363 or

Following ‘A CHORUS LINE’, Porthouse will present
Oscar Wilde’s witty and wise ‘THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING
EARNEST’ from July 4 through July 19.  The season ends
with Rogers and Hammerstein’s ‘OKLAHOMA’, the show
which forever changed the American musical theatre. 
‘OKLAHOMA’ runs from July 25 through August 10.

Porthouse Theatre is a cultural service of Kent State
University and is funded in part by the Ohio Arts


Cain Park: (216-371-3000):

‘FIDDLER ON THE ROOF’, June 19-July 6.

GROUNDWORKS DANCETHEATER, the always exciting David
Shimotakahara’s company dancing Gina Gibney and
Shimotakahara’s choreography.  July 27 and July 28.

BATBOY: THE MUSICAL, July 31-August 17.

POINTE OF DEPARTURE (Raymond Rodriguez and Karen
Gabay, formerly with the Cleveland Ballet), July 31.

Playhouse Square: (216-241-6000, 800-766-6048 or
on-line at www.playhousesquare.com)

THE LION KING, Tuesday through Sundays, June 27
through  August 17.

Lyric Opera Cleveland: (216-795-7000, extension 4)
Performed at the Cleveland Play House

‘DIE FLEDERMAUS’ by Strauss, with special guest ballet
artists Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez), June 18-27

‘BERLIN TO BROADWAY’, a revue of the theatre music of
Kurt Weill, July 9-20.

‘ELIXIR OF LOVE’ an opera by Donizetti, based on the
precept that sometimes love needs a helping hand, July
30-August 3.


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