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Cast does fast-paced "Chorus Line' justice

There's a reason the musical A Chorus Line set box office and longevity records on Broadway. It's a terrific show, with warm and believable characters, great Marvin Hamlisch music, sparkling dance numbers and never a slow moment.

The production of the 1975 classic playing through March 23 at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill stays true to these virtues, so much so that a few flat notes and warbling voices can be forgiven.

Director Ray Hill had to make choices, and he wisely went for actors who could do the characterizations and move around the stage rather than people who could always belt out the songs in perfect pitch. This is a dance and story show, and without adequate dancers and good storytellers, it doesn't work. And Hill's show works just fine.

A Chorus Line has something of a plot, the romance between Zack (Miguel E. Rodriguez), the casting director of an upcoming Broadway show, and Cassie (Wahnita Dow), a dancer who has failed in Hollywood and wants back in the dance line. But more than that, it's a series of stories by the dozen or so other "gypsies" _ the ever-moving dancers who toil in the faceless chorus line _ trying out for the show.

It was those stories that brought the show its Pulitzer Prize for drama and why it can work even if in a case or two the singing isn't perfect.

Even so, Hill was fortunate that an accomplished singer/dancer like Anita Hocker came out for the role of Diana Morales, who has two of the biggest songs in the show _ Nothing and What I Did for Love. Hocker does these cornerstone numbers nicely, with just enough nonchalance to be cool and enough passion to show she really cares.

Emili Taylor is a cutie as Val, the small-town girl who prances around the stage praising the surgical enhancements that turned around her stage career in Dance 10, Looks 3.

Choreographer Dow worked wonders with her dance line, showcasing the trained ones and working around the beginners to come up with snappy routines where the whole often looks better than its parts. And that goes for Wayne Raymond's musical sounds, too.

The show has other strong points.

Leslee Starz is perfectly cast as Shiela, the jaded, cynical chorine who has been around the block a few times and sees the end of the road coming up soon. Starz slinks around the stage like a tiger ready to pounce, full of attitude, bitterness and resignation.

Seth Travaglino's Paul, who was casually sexually abused as a little boy, has the show's most poignant and tender moments as he tells his story, and Travaglino handles them well. Lucas Cyr is spunky as the tap-dancing Mike in I Can Do That. Daniel Brigbag, a proven dramatic actor, acquits himself nicely as singer/hoofer Mark in Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love. Stephan Michaelis beefs up the dance line and the laugh lines as the out-of-the-closet Greg.

For various reasons, director Hill cut a couple of the show's less familiar numbers, Gimme the Ball and Richie, putting the run time at 2 hours, 20 minutes.

One other thing: The show can be enjoyed by ages 12 and older, but there are a few strong words in it that some parents may not want their children to hear.