"A Chorus Line" is back in Seattle in a touring production of the recent Broadway revival, and it's as enjoyable as ever. Plays Aug. 5-10, 2008 at the Paramount Theatre; musical review by Mary Murfin Bayley.

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Theater Review |

From the moment the curtain went up Tuesday night on “A Chorus Line,” it was impossible to resist falling once again under its spell. The touring revival of the groundbreaking 1975 Broadway show, at the Paramount through Sunday, is loaded with charisma and talent and hews closely to the original.

The elements that make up “A Chorus Line” are simple. In front of plain black panels that revolve to become mirrors, 17 dancers compete for eight roles at an audition. Following the commands of a director, whose voice is sometimes amplified godlike from above, they not only dance, but describe their own lives and how and why they became Broadway gypsies.

Michael Bennett, the original director and choreographer, based the show on taped interviews with dancers, which were then shaped by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante into a script. With music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, the dancers’ stories are cut together into sometimes-funny, sometimes-poignant combinations. The director of the current production, Bob Avian, was Bennett’s co-choreographer, and the dancing throughout, restaged by Baayork Lee, was sharp, emphatic and sensational.

Clyde Alves in “I Can do That” perfectly caught the childlike enthusiasm, complete with cartwheels, of his first visit to his sister’s tap class. In the hauntingly beautiful “At the Ballet,” Emily Fletcher as Sheila, with Pilar Millhollen and Hollie Howard, sang about how ballet performances and dance class became an escape from troubled family lives. In “Nothing” Gabrielle Ruiz nailed the bittersweet lesson of learning how to believe in herself as an artist. In “Music and the Mirror” Nikki Snelson, as Cassie, convinced the director (silky Michael Gruber) that although she had been a featured dancer, she could still fit in with the chorus.

The stories told in song and dance were generally more powerful than the spoken monologues, although Kevin Santos, as Paul, recounting how his parents saw him first dance in a drag show, still hits hard.

The enduring power of “Chorus Line” is that while it is ostensibly and convincingly about dance, it is also about how we all live our lives, about how to do whatever you do as well as you can, and how being a small part of a large whole can sometimes be more powerful than being an individual star (a surprisingly socialist metaphor to come out of that most American of art forms, the Broadway musical.)

The physical production seamlessly served the play: scenic design by Robin Wagner, those magical mirrors; costumes by Theoni V. Aldredge, the 1970s rehearsal togs looking surprisingly au courant; and the lighting by Tharon Musser, adapted by Natasha Katz, were spot on.

In the grand finale, “One,” all the dancers come back onstage in glittering gold costumes, transformed from individuals back into the anonymity and razzle-dazzle of a chorus line. As the lights dim out on them, it’s a moment of pure, powerful, breathtaking theater. No wonder “A Chorus Line” has hit the boards with so much success all these years.

Mary Murfin Bayley: marybayley@aol.com