by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts Editor
When it comes to the difficulty behind the project, artistic director Chris Rabideau says on a scale between one and 10, it fell on a 15.
The production of “A Chorus Line” presented by Arts Collective Theatre’s summer workshop program is one he’d comfortably call one of the hardest undertakings he’s ever engaged in. Originally premiering in Olde Walkerville Theatre Oct. 7, the entire project consists of a collaborative effort between high-school, college and university students with the aid of professional mentors.
A musical in every step of the way, the ACT production came with all the bells and whistles, which include a live orchestra and a cast of nearly 20 actors and actresses within a 14-21 age group, some of which have never stepped on a single stage prior to this particular experience.
“You’re talking about guys that have never danced before. Some of them have never danced a step in their life. That’s where I think I look at the progress of what the program is about,” Rabideau said. “We’re always looking about what do the students want and how do we challenge them. We wanted to go beyond the high school production, and make something that people hopefully really like and enjoy.”
Had Rabideau been given all the time in the world, he would have spent a year on the production, but ultimately had to settle for four months of time with rehearsals beginning in late June. But given the timeframe, it’s not difficult to notice the tremendous effort which was put forth by the cast, crew and orchestra.
Risqué in nature and overall demeanour, “A Chorus Line” is centered on 17 Broadway dancers auditioning for a spot in, as the title suggests, a chorus line. The audition process highlights the past and motivation of these dancers and their reasons for being in the profession. Often times humorous and emotional at the right moments, there is an impressive amount of detail in almost every corner which is, for the most part, carefully balanced.
The orchestral work remains strong throughout, effectively dictating the pace of the narrative at hand. In remaining in the confines of the audition process itself, the ensemble cast is on stage at almost all times with exquisitely focused lighting direction clearly placing spotlights on characters whenever the script calls for it.
Rabideau says the biggest hurdle of the production fell within the choreography since several of the cast members present never danced on a stage before. But while there were notable hiccups when it came to stage symmetry, the feat is impressive considering the limited time they had to prepare. This issue is also further mitigated by powerful singing and acting performances littered throughout, with the latter including a lengthy, compelling monologue from one 14-year old Nick Palazzolo who commands the emotions of the audience through his character’s devastating innocence.
Rabideau doesn’t think he’ll do a show such as this one again where the elements to consider become constantly overwhelming. But he wants as many people to see the show as possible to let them know of the collective raw talent as demonstrated on stage.
It’s a message which should ring clear, as the attempts in making the production worth experiencing do not go in vain in the slightest.
“The fact that these people are in our city, we should be helping them in Windsor,” Rabideau said. “We need to highlight and support our youth because they are the future talent of the city.”
“A Chorus Line” runs at Olde Walkerville Theatre until Oct. 23.