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A Chorus Line – Vancouver

Posted on August 26, 2017 at 2:08 pm by David Jones — 3 Comments

A Chorus Line by Fighting Chance Productions
Until September 2nd

Deceptively hard show proves too challenging as a season finale.

Gosh, I love Fighting Chance Productions and I recently raved about how much they had grown over the years and how great their last production (Parade) was.

But one of the problems always with this amateur company is that they tackle shows that they often don’t have the manpower or budget to pull off. On paper A Chorus Line looks like a rather straightforward simple show. A bunch of Broadway gypsy’s – ensemble dancer/singers – audition for a show. It’s a backstage musical, simple setting and costumes, easy peasy. But it is clearly a deceptively challenging show.

The original show was created in 1975 from a series of interviews with real Broadway dancers. Their true stories were turn into what would be one of the longest running shows, spawning an underwhelming movie version and being one of the few musicals to Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Although they are chorus, they are Broadway chorus and for this show to work they have to be what is referred to a triple threats. The actors in the cast have to be able to sing, dance and act.

Now this is an amateur company and these are young artists at the beginning of their careers so I should give them a break and admire the company for giving them this opportunity. But this show is charging $40 a ticket for adults and $35 for students and seniors. And then before the show ends they ask for more money… but more on that later.

Some of the actors are truly lovely and although the sound mix was a little off at the beginning they managed to soar.

Alisha Suitor as the older dancer Sheila is acerbic yet needy and sings and dances beautifully. I also loved the stage presence and voice of Amanda Lourenco as Maggie. Gregory Liow is a dynamic dancer and buoyant singer and his “That I Can Do” is an early highlight. Ben Platten also made the bitchy fag character Greg a standout.

One of the most fun songs in a show with so many iconic songs is Dance Ten Looks Three and really enjoyed how playful and clever Lindsay Marshall made it – “Silly – cone”!

The show however has some really rough patches as it starts out, some of the dancers are not fluid or very flexible and some of the singing get’s pitchy.

Director Rachael Carslon also has some other issues like how to stage big group dialogue scenes. Since the actors are wearing microphones we hear their voices through the speakers and not the stage. So when they are all scattered about the stage and interjecting we have to quickly scan the stage to see who is speaking. Knowing how to give and draw focus would have helped us out tremendously.

The show is wonderfully structured as a script. Although sentimentally and a tad whiney it builds nicely and the cast really start to pull it together as a whole.

As Vanessa Quarinto starts to stunningly sing “What I Did For Love” I was now getting swept along and I even cried a little at the power and folly of artists which is the shows intent. I was forgiving all the small hiccups that came earlier and all we had left was the spectacular closing number where all the cast come out in gold suits.

Instead of a smooth transition into the number where the individuals we had all gotten to know become a united yet anonymous ensemble, we get yanked out of the show and the world created by a speech asking us to donate money of which half will go to a charity and the other half to Fighting Chance Productions.

It appears this speech’s real function was to cover the costume change perhaps because the design did not accommodate a fast change with Velcro and snaps. I am not sure but it totally wrecked any goodwill that the show had built. All of the actors work of transporting us into the life of the chorus dancers was tossed away.

The only possible hope was if the when the speech asking us for money was over would be if the climatic song “One” was spectacular. It was not.

The costumes looked ill fitting and unfinished. The dancers moved as if it was the least rehearsed number in the show. The stage was too crowded so they were banging into each other as the stood in a straight line. The choreographer should have either put them at an angle or drop some from the finale. When they did a big circle move they got caught up in the giant silver fringe curtain dragging parts of it with them as they travelled. Hats were dropped and people on the ends of the lines were pushed into the wings.

It was a mess when it needed to be the best part of the show.

As I mentioned earlier it perhaps can be mean spirited to be rough on an amateur production but when you are charging ticket prices that are pretty close to Bard On The Beach and Arts Club tickets (companies that pay their actors) you are suggesting your show is of equal caliber. When you want audience to pay $40 and then hold the finale hostage while to ask them for more donations you better make sure that final product is as polished as can be.

Director Rachel Carlson – who also did choreography AND costumes was clearly over taxed and the board of directors or someone needed to jump in to help this first time director.

The things that worked, worked really well. It wavered and wobbled and then really started to take off but sadly it skidded off the runway instead of soaring.

David C. Jones

AMENDED:

I want to clarify that there are wonderful performers in this production and much of the show if very wonderful. I am sorry if that was not clear.

I have been asked to verify my ticket pricing comparison comment so I did:

First I was told in regards to A Chorus Line –

“our average ticket price usually comes in at around $23 after the comps, Groupon and discounts”

So there are ways to get a less costly ticket.

Now how does it compare to others? I looked at the two professional companies I mentioned and also at two amateur companies.

Bard on The Beach has three tickets levels for various venues.

The big tent
Price A – $59.00
Price B – $47.00
Price C – $21.00

and smaller tent
Price A – $69.00
Price B – $57.00
Price C – $21.00

and for Shylock
Price A – $47.00
Price B – $41.00
Price C – $21.00

Their Student prices do not go above $30

The Arts Club does progressive ticket pricing which mean the ticket price goes up depending on demand.

Beauty and the Beast
Price A – $82.00
Price B – $59.00
Price C – $29.00

Angels in America – Perestroika
Price A – $77.00
Price B – $54.00
Price C – $29.00

United Players of Vancouver does cheaper midweek seats but on the weekends

Merrily We Roll Along on a Friday
$26.00 for Adults
$23.00 for Students / Seniors

Metro Theatre it appears 
All seats $25



  • KevinDaleMcKeown

    Thanks for an excellent review David. Praise where it was earned and constructive criticism where it was needed. Theatre Under The Stars and Royal City Musical Theatre have been showing us for years what a cast of young amateurs can rise to when coached and supported by caring and careful professionals. I hope that Fighting Chance can rise above such petty quibbles as pricing scales and use your thoughtful criticisms to their advantage — and growth.

    • Sandra Herd

      There is nothing amateur about almost all of the performers in Theatre Under the Stars and Royal City Musicals. Many have countless shows under their belts, years of training and education. Unpaid and underpaid are not equivalent to amateur. Off topic, but it’s an important distinction in Vancouver where extremely talented and professional performers are continually undervalued by a broken system.

      • KevinDaleMcKeown

        The casting practices at both TUTS and RCMT may well have changed in the years since I was publicist for both companies, but at that time most of each cast consisted of student performers, some from UBC, Studio 58, and the like, and for choruses and extras many senior high school students. They were certainly “amateur” in that sense. They got to work with professional directors and choreographers, along with a couple of “by permission of Actors Equity” seasoned professionals. It was, at the time, a win-win situation for everyone. But, as noted, things may have changed.

EZP