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NY Theater Reviews

Mario Lopez as Zach

KEEP THOSE TOE SHOES WARM

By MATT WINDMAN

A Chorus Line still packs a mean theatrical punch. As for Mario Lopez as Zach, he turns in a surprisingly impressive performance.

It's downright ironic for any well-known actor to enter the cast of A Chorus Line, the musical designed to celebrate the chorus instead of the star. But until the current Broadway revival closes next month, the lead role of Zach, the god-like director who ultimately chooses which dancers stay or go home, is being played by Saved By the Bell hunk Mario Lopez.

Zach, who spends most of his time at the back of the theater, is mostly a voiceover role. As a result, Michael Bennett's original staging has been slightly altered to give Lopez more stage time. For instance, Zach now struts at the top of the Singular Sensation triangle instead of Paul. He also enters the stage much earlier than usual for his confrontation scene with Cassie.

Is Lopez any good? Most definitely. Even if he looks too young for the role, he projects stage presence, solid energy and pretty boy good looks. But most effective of all, he stresses the insecurity and self-disgust that cause Zach to force emotional and often painful confessions out of his shell-shocked auditionees. Based on this surprisingly impressive performance, Lopez definitely ought to do more theater.

On the whole, this revival still packs a mean theatrical punch. It may have even improved over the past 20 months, especially since it now feels less like a carbon copy of the original production.

Deidre Goodwin has added nuance to the bitter Sheila, and Charlotte d'Amboise has improved substantially as Cassie, the pro who now wants to rejoin the chorus. Other excellent additions include Melissa Lone as Maggie and Bryan Knowlton as Paul, who truly nails the character's intense monologue.

Even if this is essentially a recreation of the same A Chorus Line that opened in 1975, it remains a thrilling, absolutely joyous theatrical experience. It is the kind of production we could happily watch over and over and over again. So don't miss your chance to see it at least once!