One night only

Portland Opera whets appetite for upcoming fare withA Chorus Line

Lines of people wrapped around the block in front of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Sunday, Oct. 28, hoping to get tickets to a one-night exclusive showing of A Chorus Line, presented by U.S. Bank Broadway Across America.

Portland Opera whets appetite for upcoming fare with A Chorus Line

Lines of people wrapped around the block in front of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Sunday, Oct. 28, hoping to get tickets to a one-night exclusive showing of A Chorus Line, presented by U.S. Bank Broadway Across America.

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Do the can-can: Dancers from Broadway Across America’s A Chorus Line dance on stage. Portland Opra cosponsored the one-night exclusive last week at “The Schnitz.”

A Chorus Line, which chronicles the lives of Broadway dancers, takes the audience behind the scenes of the casting process for a Broadway musical. Zach, the play’s director, conducts an unconventional audition process, asking deeply personal questions about the lives of the dancers in ways that are emotional and, at times, painful.

The audience comes to identify with the character Cassie, Zach’s ex-girlfriend, as well as the dynamic Sheila, who for a moment drops her highly sexualized performance to expose her troubled upbringing.

One of the most moving and painful moments comes during Paul’s performance, when he admits to having dropped out of school as a teenager. Paul’s journey takes the audience into the dressing rooms of drag queen performers as he gradually comes to accept his homosexuality, and the audience shares in the painful moment when his parents see him in his drag performance and disown him, never to see him again.

A Chorus Line certainly offers some uplifting moments too, such as the duo Kristine and Al. Kristine admits that she became a dancer because she is horribly tone-deaf. Al, her husband, helps her finish each of the lines of her song in tune, creating a comic back-and-forth between the two characters.

Many in the show’s audience appreciated the opportunity to see the celebrated Broadway show in Portland.

Upon leaving the performance, one attendee, Pam, said it was “dynamic.” Her friend Teri said, “It’s a classic…I liked that it pulled the heartstrings.”

While A Chorus Line is certainly a classic (it’s the sixth-most-performed show on Broadway), the one-night affair was lacking a lot of the luster of the original. Some of the comments overheard after the show addressed the numerous technical problems with sound and lighting.

“The first night is going to have tech problems,” attendee Georgette said after the show. “They have to be showcased to the best advantage.”

Even with the numerous technical problems, the actors did their best to do the musical justice.

However, despite their best efforts, the energy of the play seemed to lag and the pacing of many key scenes was out of sync.

“Most of the audience knows the musical—it’s so iconic—so we were doing this comparison thing,” Georgette said.

Many of the comparisons were in regard to the actors playing Zach and Cassie, the director and ex-girlfriend. Georgette, as well as her daughter Maya and family friend David, all agreed that the actress playing Cassie did not have the dancing ability that they were expecting for the typically show-stopping number “The Music and the Mirror.”

This underwhelming performance was mirrored, in Maya’s opinion, by the character of Zach, whose performance lacked a certain depth and interview-style quality, and instead felt like a surgical probing of the other characters’ lives.

“He seemed like a psychiatrist,” Maya said.

“It was a social study of these peoples’ lives,” David said.

The show was supposed to highlight the magic and love of performing on Broadway, and of becoming a part of a living whole, as the musical number “One Singular Sensation” alludes to.

The final scene, in which we learn why it’s worth it for these characters to put themselves through the grueling routine of a Broadway chorus line, seemed lackluster.

“This number didn’t have the extra oomph,” David said.

For a Portland State student who does not know the show, “You weren’t getting everything…[it was as if you were] coming out of college [with] no job,” David said.

One of the most important things to remember, though, is that despite any flaws in the production, any show that is going up for only one night in an unfamiliar theater is going to have issues. This particular show should not reflect poorly on Broadway Across America Portland, or its partner, the Portland Opera.

If anything, the professionalism of the actors onstage kept the audience in their seats until the end of the performance; despite the problems, everyone had their eyes glued to the show to see who would potentially be cut from the chorus line, and listened intently to the increasingly complex and moving musical numbers.

As the saying goes, the show must go on. In this way, this production of A Chorus Line imparted a new appreciation not only for the characters in the show, but also for the actors behind the characters, who were having to work together to carry on the performance.

After the one-night exclusive, the Portland Opera returned to its regular season programming this past weekend with the opening of Don Giovanni, Mozart’s seminal opera about the “serial seducer.”

For more information on Don Giovanni, visit