The slam-bang finale says it all.
For the dancers and for the audience, all the blood, sweat and tears of a grueling audition lead up to "one singular sensation."It starts off with a nearly bare stage - just a white line stretching across the front - and 24 prospective professional dancers anxious to get a job, even if it's in the back row of a show's chorus line.
Although some of them have wild dreams of Broadway and Hollywood stardom, they know that, in this show (the one they're auditioning for), they'll be just another group of nameless faces. And when that show closes (they all do, eventually), then they'll go through the whole humiliating process again.
"A Chorus Line," though, is in a class by itself. After more than 6,000 performances and nearly 15 years on Broadway, it still stands as one of the landmark shows in theater history.
But there's plenty of "kick" in the show yet, as this national tour proves.
We know, up front, that only eight of these 24 will succeed. But we really want them all to. (Well, OK, a couple of the characters are real jerks, and a couple of others we can tell don't have the experience or chutzpah to make it into the finals) - but the "Chorus Line" cast itself does an impressive job of making every one of the characters believable.
I won't tell you who gets eliminated and who gets selected. This show might not be in "the butler did it" suspense category, but the tension and momentum mount as Zach, played by Randy Clements, prods and probes his way into the lives, secrets and vulnerable feelings of the auditioners.
Early on, the first batch of 24 dancers is pared down to 17 - and these are the ones captured in the unnerving glare of the spotlight and Zach's relentless interrogation.
While "A Chorus Line" is largely an ensemble piece, there are some performances that stand out.
Like Laurie Gamache as Cassie, who once lived with Zach and, after several lean years in Hollywood, is back trying to make it the only place she knows she can - in the chorus line.
There's real electricity between Gamache and Clements when Cassie and Zach confront each other. Gamache's skill as a dancer and actress is spotlighted in "The Music and the Mirror."
"I'm a dancer, and a dancer dances," she pleads to Zach.
Even more poignant is late-bloomer Paul, finally coming to grips with his sexual identity, but still reeling from the anguish. His dream has been to dance like Cyd Charisse, and his only real job until now was performing in the Jewel Box female impersonation revue, in the dregs (or drags) of show business.
Paul, as performed by Porfirio, is a troubled young man who needs compassion and support. When Zach comes back on stage and put his arm around him, it's a quiet, but powerful, moment.
One of the strongest performers in the cast is Donna Pompei, as Diana Morales, the Puerto Rican who feels "Nothing" in her early acting classes and later leads the ensemble in demonstrating that - despite the other career options available - dancing is still "What I Did for Love."
Pompei's a terrific performer with a great voice.
Julie Graves, too, gives a stellar performance in another of the show-stoppers as Val, the girl who, through the magic of surgical wizardry, transforms her formerly flat-as-a-pancake body into a figure that casting directors will notice.
Her "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" solo might raise a few eyebrows, but her sprightly enthusiasm for her renovated appearance can't be faulted.
Kudos also go to Mark S. Hoebee as Mike ("I Can Do That!"), and Buddy Balou and Michelle Michaels as Al and Kristine in the "Sing!" duet.
And we can't lavish enough praise on the musicians down in the pit. Fourteen of the group, conducted by musical director Joseph Klein, came from the Salt Lake Philharmonic Orchestra. It's a difficult score and one that calls for precision timing.
- THE SHOW AFTER THE SHOW, a benefit for the Utah AIDS Foundation and the "Broadway Cares" fund of Actors' Equity, will be presented by members of the "A Chorus Line" company tonight (Wednesday) at 11 p.m. at the Broadway Stage, 272 S. Main.
Tickets are $10 each. Proceeds from ticket sales to the evening of cabaret-style entertainment will support the Utah AIDS Foundation's new program to provide hot meals for AIDS victims, while money from the auction of "A Chorus Line" items will go into the "Broadway Cares" fund.