Wednesday, 23 September 2015

"A Chorus Line" by Encore Performing Arts.
Djanogly Theatre, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham.

Celebrating 40 years of "A Chorus Line" and having its' Nottingham debut, The Encore Performing Arts make its' debut show, Nottingham's debut outing for this musical. The show focuses on the auditionees' stories over the dancing, although, as this is about auditioning for a chorus line of dancers, there is of course more than a modicum of choreography here.

Based on true manuscripts of original chorus line auditions, the monologues and stories will bring a smile to your face as well as get you angry and sad at, at least one of the revelations. You feel the pain and the heartache at the rejections for various reasons on behalf of the dancers, especially Cassie who is one of the older ones auditioning.

Cassie (Sian Scattergood) has history with director/choreographer in the show Zach (Adam Guest). Cassie hasn't had a dancing job for two years and just wants a chance but without Zach showing any favouritism to her and their history. Zach tries to be professional in his role but can't resist trying to get the answers to what happened in their past.

Sian is a brilliant dancer and showed this off with her solo section to "The Music And The Mirror". My only very minor criticism here though was the follow spot, well didn't, follow her that is and it would have been nice to have Sian in the spotlight at all times instead of the static spot,especially as the self-choreographed piece was a joy to watch. She was hypnotic.

I'd said in my mind that I was not going to highlight any one of the actors because they were all so very good, and each brought a little something to the stage and the roles that they portrayed. The play itself is a rare one as there are no principals, no special costumes, to speak of, apart from the hats and next to no scenery apart from four large mirrors. The simplicity of the play belies the complexity of the storylines.

You can buy into the background stories of the dancers in the auditions but there's one particular dancer whose story is quite heart tugging, and you could have heard a pin drop on a carpet while Paul (Andrew Bould) told his story. A really emotional performance.

An excellent director in Adam Guest keeps the show tight and flowing. He gets the best out of his actors but is also a very "giving" director as well. He's not too bad at playing Zach, the director/choreographer on stage either!

Choreography of the show, Siobhan Parker, plays Zach's right hand woman, Laurie. Siobhan has a long history of choreography in theatre and this isn't her first time at choreographing this show either. A brilliant job.

Musical director Sam Griffiths, who also produced the show, created a classy and tight musical backdrop, sometimes musically lurking behind the monologues and then bursting into life to give a powerful and rousing backing to "Chorus" favourites like "Nothing". "I Can Do That", "One" and of course "What I Did For Love". This particular song performed with wonderful passion by the character Diana, played by Alana Moran, sending the hairs on your neck tingling.

You may notice some regular faces in the cast from all over the region and from different theatre groups, and that's one thing that Encore are happy to promote. There's no core set of actors and each production is open to any actor who wants to try out, which is very refreshing way of conducting a performing arts group.

As I said, there's no way that I could single out one actor over another because this show is a team effort and, in the same way as the musical was written with no principals, Encore have a troupe of principals.

There's a lot of comedy as well a lot of pathos which works really well and these 25 actors put on a brilliant show which I would personally urge you to attend in your droves. If this is Encore's debut then they've started at near the top of their game. They've set themselves a very high bar to maintain, which I've no doubt, with the quality of the people involved, they will do, and exceed the bar.

"A Chorus Line" is playing at Djanogly Theatre, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham until Saturday 26 September 2015.

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