A Preview of VSMT’s A Chorus Line

Bailey Quinn, Staff Writer

The lights flood the stage of the Court Theatre in Villanova University’s John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. A group of dancers stands, all with their backs to the audience, facing a barre and an array of mirrors. A medley plays over a smattering of vocals, building in volume and excitement from the cast, which is still practicing the moves swiftly and instinctually, as though they are a well-oiled machine, all breathing one collective breath. Each dancers’ movements are a contribution to the conversation happening in front of us; in unison, but not without their character’s personal flair. This is the opening scene of Villanova Student Musical Theatre’s (VSMT) Spring 2023 production of A Chorus Line. 

Directed by Jacob Long (Musical Director Minh-chau Scott and Stage Manager Lily Panunto), this show is almost two hours of joys and pains of being in “showbiz.” The show follows a group of performers as they compete together and against one another for a spot in the chorus, while also responding to the surprising personal questions posed by the show’s director, Zach (played by Quinn Burns). The main question asked is “Why did you start dancing?” and it leads all the dancers to explanations that range from logical to downright hilarious – whether its dance lessons that led to childhood teasing (Mike Costa played by senior Aidan Fecko) to acting classes gone wrong (Diana Morales played by sophomore Vanessa Rosado) to discussions of sexually transmitted diseases with a priest (Mark Anthony played by sophomore Matt Sabol) – these dancers cannot seem to catch a break.

Between stunning group dances, there are breathtaking solos and monologues. Junior Pat Calhoun’s character, Paul San Marco, divulges a particularly rattling story, detailing his experiences growing up as a queer boy trying to learn what it truly means to be a man. Calhoun’s lip quivers as he delivers each line, his voice cracking as he details how his character has been bogged down by life time and time again, yet he continues forward. The monologue is so meaningful that the director leaps up from the shadows of the stage and runs to hug San Marco, holding him tightly, letting the sobbing dancer know, without speaking, that he is seen and heard. 

Sophomore Ainsley Williams, playing Val Clark, offers a solo that, in contrast to San Marco’s heartbreaking story, will have audience members rolling in the aisles of the Court Theatre, laughing until their sides hurt. Val is unapologetically herself. Williams dazzles as she unabashedly takes up space on the stage, throwing her hips around, strutting as she serenades her fellow dancers and the directing team about how her investment in plastic surgery brought her looks up from a rating of three, landing her jobs left and right. Every character who steps forward to introduce themself to the director inevitably reveals a personality and a past that pulls the audience close and asks them to consider what they love doing, what they would do if they could not do it anymore and how far they would go to keep doing what they love.

VSMT’s A Chorus Line will leave the audience speechless with complex group musical numbers featuring high kicks, twists and turns every which way (all while wearing the stylings of co-costumers Abigail Maroun and Madeleine Brooks, who also play characters Judy Turner and Connie MacKenzie, respectively). 

The variety of talents displayed by the VSMT cast is no surprise, yet still will leave the audience in awe of them and their skills, show after show. However, perhaps the most impressive part is witnessing some of the talented performers of VSMT pretend to not be as talented as they are. Some characters in the show are shown, from the get-go, as destined to be cut. These dancers miss their mark, twirl the wrong way, or tap dance to their heart’s content, but not to the rhythm. In spite of this variety of apparent skill in their characters, the cast of VSMT will leave their audience rooting for each and every one of them to get a place in the chorus.

Ultimately, VSMT has wrestled with the challenge of taking on not only a physically demanding production that has pushed their comfort zone, but also a show that once ran on Broadway, raising the bar in terms of skill and ability. VSMT, per usual, has risen to the challenge and succeeds at what it set out to do – show up and show out.

VSMT’s A Chorus Line runs from Wednesday, April 26th to Sunday, April 30th. Get tickets now and follow @novavsmt on Instagram.