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‘A Chorus Line:’ one singular sensation

By R. Eli Townsend
Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy Doug Chapin

Photo courtesy Doug Chapin

Thingamajig Theatre Company’s “A Chorus Line” at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts is two hours of pure musical theater bliss. The show runs on oodles of musical theater energy starting with the fast-paced opening music with Michael Bennett’s signature choreography delightfully recreated by Ryab Hazelbaker, who also directs the production.

For the uninitiated, “A Chorus Line” features an audition for eight places in the chorus to back the star in an unnamed Broadway musical. The director, Zach (Troy Bruchwalski), has the unpopular task of whittling down the 22 actors to a shortlist of 17, and then the final eight.

Throughout the show, personalities are dissected. Dance abilities are scrutinized and attitudes examined. From the moment the show begins, the audience will join in (privately) with the selection process, and pick who they would like to get through the selection process. At some point in the production, your admiration for the performers means you cannot choose between them, as you will them all to succeed.

“A Chorus Line” takes young, ambitious and talented dancers who otherwise never get to shine on stage, and brings them into the full judgment of “the line.” The musical gives each performer a character voice they don’t normally get and exposes the fragility of their lives and careers. It’s full of respect and understanding, and will teach audiences an awful lot about the lives of people in show business. But it isn’t all drama. “A Chorus Line” is also very funny and has wonderful expressive choreography. Every song is a showstopper.

Thingamajig’s production is extra poignant as living testament of the show “going on” no matter what. In this case, performers shifted roles and new cast members were brought in to replace those performers. That’s what happened for Charity Ruth Haskins, originally cast as Maggie, who, just weeks before the show opened, shifted to perform the workhorse role of Cassie, a notoriously difficult triple threat — demanding spectacular vocal chops, dancing and acting skills. The role challenges the old performance standard as a dancer who might also sing. In “A Chorus Line,” Cassie must do it all as a compellingly complex character.

The original “A Chorus Line” was groundbreaking in so many ways, including sharing personal stories about why performers go through the grueling auditions and rehearsal process to be part of a show. The good, bad and achingly sad parts come out in those stories and rehearsals, as well as the potential for injury.

No matter how many times you’ve seen it, the messages in “A Chorus Line” still have an impact, and Hazelbaker has polished this cast to shine as bright as anything you’ve seen. He drives to the heart of the show in blending the songs, dances, moods and messages because he gets the show’s message. The soul searching is real and tangible as the characters consider “What I Did For Love.” They soldier on, dancing with intense frenetic fury, giving it all they’ve got and holding nothing back. Don’t miss this important and highly moving musical theater classic.

Thingamajig Theatre Company presents, “A Chorus Line,” directed and choreographed by Hazelbaker. Music direction by Boni McIntyre. Playing in repertory Wednesday through Saturday at 7 p.m., 2 p.m. on Sundays through Aug. 22 at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. For tickets, visit www.pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW (7469).

This story was posted on August 7, 2014.