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‘A Chorus Line’ celebrates diversity through musical storytelling

Claudia Flores
The UTEP Cast for ‘A Chorus Line’ will perform at the UTEP Dinner Theater through Feb. 18.

The colorful, diverse cast of “A Chorus Line” is sure to bring audiences to their feet, leaving them wanting more.

The latest production from the UTEP Dinner Theatre, “A Chorus Line,” opened on Friday night, Jan. 26, to a full house.

“A Chorus Line” is a musical drama set in the gritty New York City scene in the 1970s, when times were tumultuous and a kind of continuation of the 1960s. Women, African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community and other marginalized people continued their fight for equality, and many Americans joined the protest against the ongoing war in Vietnam.

The musical gives the audience a peak into the lives of 17 dancers from different backgrounds and upbringings, representing the time period, who are all competing for a spot in the chorus line of a Broadway musical.

The first act is fast-paced. It opens up with a quick scene and the first musical number, “I Hope I Get It,” sung by the entire cast as they quickly learn the choreography during the first round of auditions. It’s a tough process and soon after the first cuts are made, the musical delves into the true purpose of this story that reveals who these characters really are.

Zach, the director and choreographer, played by Edward Gallardo III, is tough and demands perfection from the dancers, although he wants to know more than just what they have to offer on stage. Ironically, his physical presence throughout the majority of the musical is off stage, though his dominant voice is heard behind the audience making him very present throughout the show.

More musical numbers break out, and one by one, each dancer hesitantly begins to tell their story, many unsure of what to say. This is an uncomfortable moment for each one of the characters, and the audience can feel their anxiety, as they question who they are as a person, not just as dancers.

The best musical numbers during Act One are hard to choose, as each one reflects great moments. “I Can Do That,” performed by Mike, played by UTEP sophomore Jorge Blakely, kicks off the more light-hearted portion of the show, and one of the less intense stories belonging to the dancers.

As Act One progresses, so do the stories. From the sassy Sheila, played by Sarah Pagano, singing about her unhappy childhood, to the other fun, quirky and over-the-top characters singing about being too skinny (Judy, played by Tania Hernandez), being tone-deaf (Kristine, played by Rebecca Vargas), being too short (Connie, played by Jensen Springer), not being good enough (Diana, played by Lizbeth Sanchez-Pineda), this is only a glimpse into what’s to come.

It’s not until Act Two that the stories begin to get deeper and inevitably heartbreaking. Life on the stage can be tough, but for most of the dancers, it’s the tough times in their life that brought them to the stage, where they can become another person, if only for a moment.

One of the best solos of the entire show came from Josey Pickett, a UDT veteran who plays Cassie, a dancer who hasn’t had a performing job in years. She hopes to prove to her former flame that she deserves a spot back in the “chorus line.” Her hope and heartbreaking plea during  “The Music and The Mirror,” will have you on the edge of your seat.

Saving the best for last, there’s one more character whose story the audience has yet to hear. Paul, played by Derrick Cintron, does a phenomenal job with his performance, summing up what the entire musical is about. The gay Puerto Rican, who is ashamed of his identity but comes to grips with the past, will have you near tears if you haven’t already shed some by this point in the show.

The sets and costumes are simple, but it doesn’t take away from the show. It only showcases the strengths of each character’s dancing and singing abilities.

“A Chorus Line” is a must-watch performance, not only because it’s an amazing show with spectacular musical numbers that was also a Tony Award winner for Best Musical and has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama, but because it is a story about people whose lives matter and who get a platform to tell their own stories. Simply put, it is funny, heartbreaking and refreshingly honest and will have you wanting to watch it again when it’s over.

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About the Contributors
Elenie Gonzalez, Web Editor
Claudia Flores, Editor-in-chief
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‘A Chorus Line’ celebrates diversity through musical storytelling