Minnesota audiences love to give standing ovations. At almost every single show I’ve seen, if not immediately then in a wave, the audience rises from their seat during the curtain call, clapping boisterously.
But of all the shows I have seen, the one I feel perhaps most deserved a standing ovation surprisingly didn’t get one.
Now, I don’t feel audiences at The Ordway’s “A Chorus Line” didn’t want to give one; rather there wasn’t really an appropriate place for one.
At least I hope so.
“A Chorus Line,” which opened Tuesday, Feb. 16, was as powerful as it was simple.
The show itself tells an uncomplicated story. It features a cast of 26 — 25 dancers and one casting director. The 25 dancers are auditioning for a Broadway show. During the process, they show off their dancing skills as well as share their stories of what lead them to dance.
The set is equally as simple, just a stage with a set of mirrors used at intervals throughout the show.
At the end there are a few more lights that act as a backdrop to the chorus line, but the majority of the show is just the bare stage.
While sparse, it is this emptiness that really allows the rawness of the dancers’ stories to resonate.
Without bold sets, bright lights and big props, the actors are left to their own devices to tell the story. Much like how it is during a real audition.
With the actor playing the casting director sitting in the audience for most of the show, it truly did feel like an audition process as the actors on stage fidgeted ever so slightly while waiting their turn.
The simplicity of the execution left nothing but the rawness of the lyrics and realness of the dancer’s skill as the focus.
And when used, the mirrors gave the audience a 360 view of their ability.
Interestingly enough, one of the best dancers on stage had one of the smallest parts. Herb Johnson III, who played Richie, had a brief vocal and dance solo in one of the montage numbers.While the solo itself wasn’t long, he captured the audience’s attention, and from there on out every time he was moving all eyes were on him.
After a split jump during said solo, for example, he received a raucous applause.
Katrina Asmar shined as Diana Morales, the wannabe actress who flunked out of improv class. Her rendition of “What I Did For Love” was heartfelt and passionate.
Molly Tynes offered an even performance as Cassie, balancing her love story with Zack, played by Tom Berklund, with her desire to once again perform. While a bit cliché, the love story between the dancer and producer added a nice personal touch to the characters without taking away the real message of the show.
And Berklund played a smart, romantic, feeling casting director, openly showing his struggle between his love for and exhaustion from the craft.
For newer theater goers, “A Chorus Line” does lack a lot of luster when compared to bold productions like “A Lion King” or “The Phantom of the Opera.” It lacks grandiose sets, unbelievable special effects and sweeping love ballads.
But, consider it like a stripped down, acoustic version of a Broadway musical.
It’s raw, it’s emotional and it is just as powerful.
“A Chorus Line” is open now through Feb. 28. Tickets cost $34 to $106. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit The Ordway online.