Review: Still doing it for love

It looked like a lot of teens were in the audience on opening night of “A Chorus Line” in San Francisco, and that’s good news. Now a new generation can enjoy the spirit and power of the 33-year-old Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner, which still holds a Broadway record for longevity.

While the touring production onstage at the Curran Theatre isn’t without problems, it nonetheless reveals why the musical won’t quit. It’s the perfect combination of heart, soul, realism, humor, agility and melody. Of course, the show is about dancers auditioning for a part in a Broadway musical, but the characters could be anyone facing challenges and insecurities, trying to grow up.

James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante’s book, set in 1975, has historical references, but doesn’t seem dated. The killer songs by composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Edward Kleban still pump the heart and provoke a tear or two.

The performers, while not as crisp as those in the 2006 revival, which had its pre-Broadway run in San Francisco, do display versatility. They start things off with a lengthy, fast-paced dance in the opener “I Hope I Get It” and close with the high-kicking, crowd-pleasing “One.”

The singing shines, too, with notable turns by Emily Fletcher, Pilar Millhollen and Hollie Howard as Sheila, Bebe and Maggie reminiscing in “At the Ballet”; Gabrielle Ruiz as Diana coldly remembering her drama teacher in “Nothing”; and Nikki Snelson as Cassie describing her passion for performance in “The Music and the Mirror.” Less effective is Natalie Elise Hall as Val, whose over-the-top version of “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” looks like the soulless fare of music videos and comes off as the opposite of sincere.

Opening night served up some sound problems, and the orchestral accompaniment seemed thin at times. The big, glittering finale started out a bit slowly.

Still, the company coalesces on “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” the mid-show melange in which all of the characters tell overlapping snippets of their back stories.

Kevin Santos nails the monologue by Paul, the sensitive kid who hid from parents who didn’t accept him; it still makes people cry. The same goes for “What I Did For Love,” another universal, inspirational tune, perhaps the show’s signature song, ideal for anyone working through life’s obstacles — and isn’t that everyone? It’s no wonder that “A Chorus Line” still thrills audiences — both those revisiting it and enjoying the added an element of nostalgia, and the youngsters experiencing its wonders for the first time.

THEATER REVIEW

A Chorus Line

WHERE: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesdays- Saturdays; 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays-Sundays; closes July 27

TICKETS: $25 to $99

CONTACT: (415) 512-7770 or www.ticketmaster.com

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