One… magical creation!

Oakdale Theater kicks off 50th season with ‘A Chorus Line’


Accomplishing the monumental task of telling a story with the heartfelt, introspective psychology of a straight play while maintaining the glamour of the choreography and talent of the cast, co-directors Patrick Campbell and Melissa Rapelje carefully mined the gold in their performers that made the lustrous finale exploding in metallic bliss a fitting ending for the production.

The CM Performing Arts Center had its opening night for the first show of its 50th season, choosing “A Chorus Line”—the ground-breaking work of Michael Bennett that strips down the spectacle of musicals to the raw talent and emotion of the cast members who live and die by their auditions.

“With our end product, we were able to create a very special production that is our own, but absolutely pays homage to the original,” said Rapelje.

“Theatre people have a set of expectations when going to see ‘A Chorus Line,’ and we really wanted to maintain that while also breathing some new life into it for a modern audience,” said Campbell.

CMPAC’s “A Chorus Line” is a must-see for all audiences, but especially loyal patrons of the theater, as it is a testament to the technical, high-achieving talent san vanitas that is indicative of the theater as a whole.

With a single set for most of the production—a dowdy backstage of an unnamed theater—the directors and set designers worked wonderfully with their limited palette to create the perfect backdrop for the dancers.

Particularly, the mirror work of the show is notable and seamless, especially during Cassie’s solo, which was an original choreographed piece.

“We knew that we wanted our mirrors to be portable, so Melissa had to get creative with what we call ‘mirrorography.’ It was challenging to find ways in which the mirrors can enhance the staging of scenes/songs while not reflecting too much light in too many directions. This technical challenge really turned into one of the most rewarding parts of the process, as the mirrors are used to tell the story through the use of varied mirror movements and formations,” said Campbell.

Michael Mandato (who shares the run with Kevin Burns) as Zach, the looming, somewhat lugubrious and eventual failed Lothario of the show, demonstrated the tenacity and unexpected sympathy that was central to the role.

In one scene, when he comforts an emotionally spent Paul San Marco (poignantly portrayed by Edwin Marcia and so devastatingly hopeful that the audience could wince in pain at his recollections of childhood), Mandato is paternal and conveys a lifetime of the character in one single moment.

Emily Walter, who played Sheila, was mesmerizing as the fed-up vixen of the cast, whose statuesque poses and brilliant dance-acting in the opening when she purposely ignores steps, coupled with her innate timing, made her not only a graceful, powerful dancer, but also quite the comedic actress.

The audience’s laughter when she delivers her line about (of course) having Valium in her dance bag was such a delight in a tense moment of the storyline.

DeAnna Feldmann, who portrayed Cassie, had an incredible costume by Ronald R. Green III that was evocative of the 1970s and resembled the frock worn by Stephanie in “Saturday Night Fever” in her first meeting with Tony. (While CMPAC’s production does not focus on a particular decade, the original was released in 1975.)

The directors both hold this musical close to their heart, especially with their own backgrounds in theater.

“The life of an actor is relentless. You face rejection constantly, but your passion keeps you hopeful. This show gives actors a voice. The lyrics ‘Who am I, anyway? Am I my resumé? That is a picture of a person I don’t know,’ is exactly what is running through your head every day as an actor,” said Rapelje

“I reminded the cast, time and time again, about how passionate I am about this show in particular, about how it changed my life as a young performer who wanted so badly for people to understand why I loved theater. This pushed me to direct the show alongside Melissa with the goal of connecting the cast to the story, to the characters, and to invite each actor to bring their own passions and stories to the table to create a real, raw, and powerful production,” said Campbell. 


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