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'A Chorus Line' kicks up its heels at Engeman

The dancers in

The dancers in "A Chorus Line" step up for their audition interviews in a scene from the musical at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, through May 10, 2015. Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

Truth be told, I wasn't looking forward to seeing "A Chorus Line" for the who's-counting?th time. Besides the refuse-to-quit winter, I was ruminating about what could possibly make "A Chorus Line" fresh again.

Well, start by knocking it out of the park. The metaphor is apt. When reminded of how fragile a dancer's future is, one of the hoofers remarks, "We're like athletes." Careers fade with youth or flame out with injury.

At the start, 21 dancers are auditioning for a Broadway musical in 1975. After the director (James Ludwig as compassionate control-freak Zach) drills them through the opening "I Hope I Get It" number, four are eliminated. The remaining 17 are informed that there are just eight openings -- four boys, four girls. But first, Zach wants to know something about their lives offstage.

Mike (an eager Eric Greengold) leads off with a confession: He got into dance by tagging along with Sis and showing her "I Can Do That." Others chime in, especially Andrew Metzgar as Misfit Gay Son of Sports-Worshipping Dad. Sheila (Kelly Sheehan with cocky chips on each slender shoulder), Bebe (Courtney Moran) and Maggie (Abby Church) relate variations of family dysfunction in relating why they were only happy "At the Ballet."

Rachel Marie Bell and DJ Petrosino, as married auditioneers, charmingly finish each other's phrases. Paul, played by Omar Garibay with a please-don't-call-on-me cringe, gets a private audience with Zach, who, in turn, demands one with Cassie, his ex-girlfriend who he believes is overqualified. Jessica Lee Goldyn, in this more mature role, shows why she earned praise as Val in the 2006 Broadway revival. She dances for her life in a brave solo that, ironically, may prove Zach's point. Although she says her character can't act, Goldyn, indeed, can.

As Val, who flaunts her cosmetic enhancement, Stephanie Israelson evens the score in "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three." Maria Cristina Slye as Diana, felt "Nothing" in acting class before turning to "What I Did for Love."

Dance is what they all did it for, lovingly choreographed by Dena DiGiacinto, who was featured in the Broadway revival, and directed by Drew Humphrey to James Olmstead's orchestra, doing honor to the late Marvin Hamlisch's energetic, emotive score.

Collectively, they have us caring about what happens to each one individually, beyond who gets hired and who doesn't.

I almost didn't mind driving home in an unrelenting spring snowstorm.

WHAT "A Chorus Line"

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through May 10, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

TICKETS $69; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

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