Won’t Forget, Can’t Regret What I Did for Love at Mac Haydn Theatre Season Opener

It began as a series of taped workshops in 1974; a group of chorus line dancers just talking into a tape recorder (anyone remember those?) and telling their lives stories. It ended up on Broadway in 1976 winning a multitude of awards including 7 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The collaboration of Marvin Hamlisch, James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, and Edward Kleban became the longest-running show on Broadway until 1997, as, A Chorus Line.

The simple story became a theatrical classic. Performed on a black stage with nothing but a rehearsal mirror as a backdrop acting not only as just a rehearsal mirror but also as a metaphor for allowing the characters to see themselves and also for the audience to literally become a part of the action.

Mac Haydn Theatre has kicked off its 52nd season in grand style. New seats, an enlarged stage and a stunning production under the direction of Eddie Gutie’rrez beautifully choreographed by Gutie’rrez and Ashley DeLane Burger with musical direction by David Thatcher Maglione is a moving memorably filled time in the theater. Moving 20 performers around on any stage is a challenge. The stage at the Mac has always offered limitations due to space; the new stage, put in during the pandemic to afford actors the ability to safely perform more distanced has become a bonanza for the theater.

Suddenly 22 performers can move easily, and dance without the sense of being in fear of falling off the edge. While the enlarged stage does account for the loss of a number of seats, it is a very well spent and wise investment in the overall quality of the production. Once again The Mac has filled the stage with the best talent available. Summer stock has long been the training ground for young talent. This cast has mixed the new with some of the theater’s stalwarts presenting the audience with an outstanding evening of entertainment. Gabe Belyeu returns once again to Chatham in the role of Zach, the director of the show, looking to narrow down the 20 auditioners to a core of 8 to be in his newest Broadway production. In an unusual casting switch for Belyeu, he finds himself in a musical with nothing to sing. His calm, mature steady demeanor and rich voice steers the ship of this production. He is the show’s backbone and supports well the cast around him.

Some of the strongest voices to appear on the Mac stage have been assembled in this production. Kyle Marra as Bobby, Kylan Ross and Julia Hajjar as husband and wife Al and Kristine, and Anna Langlois as Maggie are perfection. Strong voices and wonderful timing move the story along.

Holly Lauren Dayton as Cassie is without exception the outstanding dancer of the production as seen in the iconic The Music and the Mirror. Anthony Velez as Paul masterfully controls the stage and audience in the nearly five-minute monologue of his life. Takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions as he reveals his story of shame, love, loss, and coming to terms with who he is as a person. Isabella Vargas’ character Diana has perhaps the two most well-known songs from the show… the comic, Nothing, in which she recounts her time in an improvisation class where the teacher clearly hates her, to the show’s anthem, What I Did For Love. Vargas shows her range and diversity in her talent. Small in stature but amazingly large in voice and talent she owns the stage during the two numbers.

Whenever the cast performs together, their voices and harmonies ring out from the rafters adding to the joy of this production. Andrew Gmoser’s lighting design adds the perfect nuance putting the appropriate highlights and subtleties to the show. Once again Mac Haydn brings Broadway to the country in fine style. A Chorus Line is the perfect combination of joy, optimism, drama, sadness, music and of course dance with which to return in full-fledged glory; a tribute to the theater world and those who come to pay homage to that world.

A Chorus Line plays through July 3. For more information go to machaydntheatre.org or call 518-392-9292. Masks and proof of vaccination are required.

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