“A Chorus Line,” the backstage musical beloved throughout four decades of theatrical relevance, is back and buoyant in its second revival at the Diamond Head Theatre.
It’s aglow with a young new cast, strutting like peacocks for a new generation of fans, with fabled director-choreographer Greg Zane, putting his imprint on the musical that launched his career three decades ago.
Zane played Paul San Marco on the same stage, where he was mentored by the late Tommy Aguilar, so there’s an unstated passing-of-the-torch tradition, with Dwayne Sakaguchi in his career-charismatic turn as the same emotional and conflicted wannabe Paul. Oh, this version must be blessed from heaven.
At age 46 (“A Chorus Line” — which originally ran for 6,137 performances from April 16, 1975 to April 28, 1990 at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway — may seem dated but it joyously captures the angst of line dancers aching to land a role, in Michael Bennett’s incredulous homage to stage gypsies. “ACL” had a first revival Broadway reboot in 2006 and again in 2008. So in stage annals, she’s sort of a senior citizen, earning Tonys and even a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and in its time frame, was the longest running American musical.
Ageism doesn’t exist in this show, which still has legs and heart and emotions and regrets – stuff from real life – and it’s only “dated” because it has a proud history and a spirit that doesn’t quit. First time or fifth time, “A Chorus Line” offers a genuine flavor of what it feels like trying out for a show.
The production boasts resources unseen (creator Bennett’s genius, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, with lyrics by Edward Kleban) and rituals perpetuated because of the Aguilar/Zane/Sakaguchi connections.
Aguilar, who died of AIDS, has endured as an unofficial local because of his love and the imprint he left on Hawaii actors and dancers. His aura clearly exists in this mounting, though he doesn’t have credit in the online playbill for “inspiration,” which matters very much.
With musical direction by Melina Lillios, encircling the rigorous process of actors auditioning for a show, “ACL” is rich and pure – a metaphor for life – yet simple and satisfying with notions and niceties about their lives and aspiration.
A director Zach (Norm Dabalos, commanding but sometimes threatening, presumably inspired by Bennett’s ways and means) is seeking four guys and four gals from a field of gypsies, who roam from one tryout to another, no matter what.
The process is everything here. Well, prowess, too.
Cassie (Kira Mahealani Stone) becomes a focus of friction; she has had a relationship with Zach, who thinks she can do better than becoming a chorus girl, but, well, she needs a job, something, anything, because role-hunting is in her DNA, and with certainty, she is one of the community of ensemble actors seeking parts in a show we won’t see. She might be exceptional (Stone is riveting, transforming and persuasive in her big solo, “The Music and the Mirror,” but is struggling to be equal and ordinary, like her peers). For the record, no one has dared to do a sequel – “Two”? – because the one-ness is at the core of this show, punctuated by the show-closing “One,” the singularly sensational finale formation that is the trademark of “ACL”.
When Diana (Emily North, supposedly Puerto Rican and brutally honest) sings “Nothing” and feels nothing; she is reacting to moments foreign in her life, like swooshing through snow in her improv moment. Her truths bloom later when she belts out a heart-wrenching “What I Did for Love,” the anthem of theater folks who truly spend a lot of time for the love of the job, with very little regret.
The tapestry of hopefuls and dreamers include hilarious morsels, punctuated with authenticity in numbers like “I Hope I Get It,” “I Can Do That,” with singularly sensuous confessions from the sexy and aggressive Sheila (Lauren Teruya, gorgeous and effusive), the Hollywood wannabe Bobby (Marcus Stanger, hilariously confident), the tormented Val (Jody Bill, whose T&A lament is a showstopper), and the supportive couple Kristine and Al (Alexandra Zinov and Jared Paakaula, proud and bound by obvious love).
Imperfect bodies, broken relationships, perseverance and personal revelations are part of the chemistry here. The expressions are pieces of this theatrical puzzle, collected by creator Bennett when he interviewed and taped actual actors spewing out their inner feelings about life and auditions.
Costume designer Karen G. Wolfe has cherry-picked audition garb with a keen eye, and reflection works wonderfully – she includes a tkts T-shirt for Al, a multi-hued top for Diana, and that red hoodie for Paul, signatures from the original show.
Sakaguchi’s monologue, recapping his sexuality and his relationship with his parents, is the exclamation point of the evening, rich in detail, honest in delivery, and fueled with passionate emotions. If you don’t get watery eyes, you must be dead.
And yes, the “One” finale, where all the dancers line up in glittering gold-and-white costumes capped with the iconic top hats, is deliverance with dedication — with riveting precision, visible professionalism and sums up the essence of the show. They can do it; chorus liners are stars, too.
In the tradition of “A Chorus Line,” there is no intermission and no curtain call. Thus, no opportunity for spectators to render that standing ovation.
“A CHORUS LINE”
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, extended through Aug. 8 Sold out. Note: 7:30 p.m. performance Thursday Aug. 5 just added; only show with ticket availability, but buy ASAP, or will be sold out, too.
Where: Diamond Head Theatre
Tickets: $25 at www.diamondheadtheatre.com