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McGinn/Cazale Theatre
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Out of Line - a showcase featuring cast members from A Chorus Line

by Robert Abrams
April 22, 2007
McGinn/Cazale Theatre
2162 Broadway, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10024
I recently interviewed Lisa Ho and found her to be a very engaging artist, so when she invited me to Out of Line, a special show featuring members of the cast of A Chorus Line performing their own work, I knew I had to attend. Plus, this performance was also a benefit for Career Transition for Dancers, an organization I think is worth supporting.

Ms. Ho led off the show with a dance of her own choreography. She had good use of space. I liked her use of pauses between the movements. She inhabited every moment. Her poses, which were attractive, coincided with hits in the music perhaps half of the time. As a result, I thought the choreography was non-obvious, and thus made this lyrical, modern theatre dance with sharp accents worth a second look.

I was expecting a show full of dance, and instead was treated to 1 dance, 1 monologue and 15 songs (mostly accompanied by the able Eugene Gwozdz). The MC for the evening, Stephen DeAngelis, introduced each performer by talking to them about their experiences in A Chorus Line and in the theatre more generally.

David Baum said that as a swing for the show, he sometimes has about 15 seconds to go on, such as when one of the principals fell ill in the middle of the show, but usually he has several hours of notice. He sang a song he had written for an American Idol song contest. The song had intelligent lyrics and a driving tune.

Courtney Laine Mazza sang "Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love" with a clear voice.

Jessica Lea Patty sang "I Never Believed." Her voice radiated with her smile.

E. Clayton Cornelious sang "I thought I had the Answers." The song built nicely as it progressed. His voice flew like the bird in the song.

Lyndy Franklin, A Chorus Line's dance captain, said that she has taught seven new people their parts in the show so far. She lives, eats and sleeps A Chorus Line and loves it. She sang "I Have Found," her ready to receive song, with very sincere delivery.

Yuka Takara said that she did many sit ups in the A Chorus Line boot camp and has worked with the original Connie. She sang a song from Flower Drum Song with great vocal variety, in pitch and tone.

Jason Tam sang "Santa Fe" from Newsies since this was the film that gave him the seed of desire to learn to dance. His face and voice were expressive both during forceful and quiet sections of the song.

Chryssie Whitehead was Julia Stiles' dance double in Save The Last Dance. She performed a monologue in which she only needed the first step of a dance to fall in love with someone. If only it were that easy. She had great pauses and was very believable.

Tyler Hanes was inspired by his sister to enter show business. He sang a very supportive song, which was appropriate given how supportive these artists are of each other. He had good use of the space. His song was a believable sung conversation.

Heather Parcells started dancing at 18, which apparently, according to one of the other cast members, makes her a freak of nature. Of course, relative to the general population, anyone who dances is a freak of nature no matter what age we started at. She sang "I'm Falling in Love", a song from Thoroughly Modern Millie that she originally sang to a fellow cast member of that show who she fell in love with and is about to marry. She had a high operatic voice that projected with no mikes needed. When she sang the word "beloved" she smiled like she meant it.

Alisan Porter's mother played Bebe in the original touring company of A Chorus Line. Ms. Porter now plays Bebe on Broadway. She sang a song she wrote called "Into the Fire" accompanied on guitar by her friend Drew McKean. She had a throaty, relaxed voice that was like a cross between The Indigo Girls and a very good Country singer. Her tones hung in the air like the wings of love in the song. Her peaks bounced off of the walls.

Tony Yazbeck started tap dancing when he was 4 years old. He was inspired by Tyne Daley. He sang the song he used for his A Chorus Line audition: Sinatra's Someone to Watch Over Me. Mr. Yazbeck really worked the room with his eye contact. With the right backing he could be a popular crooner. He should front a Swing band.

Natalie Cortez often plays Puerto Rican characters, but she is actually French-Spanish-Argentine. She had great poise and timing in her act and out of it. Her song was very emotional and this emotion carried through even though she sang in French. It would have been nice if she had sung a translation part of the time for those of us who haven't taken French since Kindergarten, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Mara Davi has played Cinderella, Pluto and Eyore in Disneyworld. She related how she was given extensive back story to learn about Cinderella during her boot camp preparation for this role. She, apparently, had the musical director pick a song at random from her song book and started singing. This was a medley full of songs that could be tied together by common chords, but otherwise were very different from each other. A few of the excerpts were from A Chorus Line, so this was an appropriate last number for the show. She changed her eye contact with each song shift, which meant she connected with many people in the audience. She seemed to shift personalities with each song shift, which was partly what made the routine so funny and enjoyable. When she sang "Dance until Dawn", she shimmied with conviction. Her number had a big vocal finish.

The cast members then assembled on stage and talked about their A Chorus Line and theatre experiences. They agreed that A Chorus Line provides them with a safe and friendly environment to practice their art. There was agreement that one of their favorite moments in A Chorus Line is "Alternatives."

If I have to offer some criticism, and I do or I get points deducted, I would say that many of the performers need to work on their Ahs and Ums. Their formal presentations were flawless, but their informal presentations, when they were conversing with Mr. DeAngelis, had more than a few Ahs and Ums. The content was engaging, but these interjections detracted from the impact of what they were saying. Since they are selling themselves in this kind of a showcase, and since both the formal and informal parts of the presentation count, it would behoove them to work on eliminating unnecessary interjections. Also, many, but not all, of the singers choose to make eye contact with one part of the audience in the center. I can see how this can be a valid choice some of the time, but I think it would be worth trying to make eye contact with all parts of the room the way one is supposed to do in a good speech and then deciding which approach works best for each song. I would have also liked to see more dancing, or at least movement within some of the songs, but that again is just the choice I would have made since I am obsessed with dance. Focusing on just the music can also be a valid choice.

A show like Out of Line is in good part a showcase for underappreciated performers to stretch beyond what they can demonstrate in their main show. They accomplished this goal. Every number was enjoyable. The audience got to see the people behind the characters. If you want future inside scoops gracing heart felt performances by understudies, swings and the out of the ordinary, check out MusicalsTonight.org.
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