The Music and the Mirror

Cottage Theatre delivers a triple threat with strong production of A Chorus Line

If you could peer into this critic’s embryonic soul, I suspect you’d find A Chorus Line lyrics.

I wore grooves into my album of the original cast recording as a kid, and heck, my supercool local public elementary school put it on as a fabulous bootleg production, minus the racier numbers, when I was in second grade. Over the years, I’ve probably seen it 25 times, from multiple national tours to Broadway.

In other words, I know this show.

And because it’s one of my favorites, I was a little skeptical about a community theater production. After all, Chorus Line demands the “triple threat,” or performers who are equally strong actors, singers and dancers.

But the show is about more than technique. It’s the story — the backstory — of how people make their way into the arts and into dance, and what it takes for them to persevere.

And here, director Lanny Mitchell delivers in Cottage Theatre’s production of A Chorus Line.

Clocking in at two hours with no intermission, the piece is emotionally strong, with believable characterization and warm, relatable exchanges.

Mitchell humanizes Zach, the proverbially aloof director, modernizing the 1975 Michael Bennett original.

Autumn Carter as Diana Morales shines with confidence and a powerful voice. Ryan Dallimor, Joel Ibanez, Stefhani Anderson and Kathryn Pearson provide laughs.

Nicole Garibay as Bebe milks every moment — a real pleasure to watch — and Heidi Turnquist has fun as Val.

Jessica Rossi as Maggie impresses with her clear and compelling sound.

As Paul, Kory Weimer brings depth and openness to his character, nailing a tough monologue in the second act.

They say you can’t out-kitten kittens, but Marcee Long as Sheila and Janet Rust as Cassie give it all they’ve got. Cassie is an especially challenging role — one that calls for top-of-your-game acting, singing and, most importantly, standout dancing. Rust’s strength is in her accessible connection with the audience, a rapport that allows us to look past technical flaws.

And we would be remiss if we didn’t point out the obvious: As much as he tries to tone it down, Rafael Batya as Mike clearly dances circles around everyone. Still in high school, Batya’s bio reflects his dedication to dance study. It shows.

Mitchell’s choreography is lively and doable, and the cast sells it throughout.

Under musical direction by Mark VanBeever, the live band sounds tight and balanced. Costumes by Rhonda Turnquist add vintage flair, and Amanda Ferguson’s lighting supports shifts in mood and dynamic change.

A Chorus Line continues through Oct. 30 at the Cottage Theatre; $20-$25, tickets at or 541-942-8001.

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