A Chorus Line

  • Date:
    October 1, 2006
    Review by:
    Barbara Mehlman

     

    Music by: Marvin Hamlisch
    Lyrics by: Edward Kleban
    Book by: James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante
    Conceived by: Michael Bennett
    Directed by:Bob Avian
    Cast: Ken Alan (Bobby), Brad Anderson (Don), Michael Berresse (Zach), Natalie Cortez (Diana), Charlotte d'Amboise (Cassie), Mara Davi (Maggie), Jessica Lee Goldyn (Val), Deidre Goodwin (Sheila), Tyler Hanes (Larry), James T. Lane (Richie), Paul McGill (Mark), Heather Parcells (Judy), Michael Paternostro (Greg), Alisan Porter (Bebe), Jeffrey Schecter (Mike), Yuka Takara (Connie), Jason Tam (Paul), Chryssie Whitehead (Kristine) and Tony Yazbeck (Al).
    Synopsis: Dancers audition for a Broadway musical, during the audition we learn of the dreams and disappointments of the would be auditioners. Eventually eight are choosen and the show closes with a glitzy song and dance routine.
     

    Review by Barbara Mehlman

    The air was crackling the night I went to see "A Chorus Line." Everyone was eagerly waiting for the start, the opening lyric, "I hope I get it�" and when Zach called out, "5, 6, 7, 8�" the entire audience erupted into loud applause and cheers. Most of us became teary-eyed. Sort of silly, I know, but we felt like we were welcoming back an old and beloved friend.

    How many more wonderful things can be said of this exhilarating and original musical that hasn't already been said? It's lost none of its luster though it left Broadway 16 years ago after a record 15-year run. It is a member-in-good-standing of Barbara's Pantheon of Perfect Musicals, along with "West Side Story," "My Fair Lady," and "Fiddler on the Roof." It was groundbreaking.

    Never had a musical lined up 16 dancers across a bare stage in an empty theater and had them talk! Never had a musical clothed dancers in ordinary leotards, tights and gym gear -- exactly what real dancers wear to real auditions -- and they didn't make a costume change once. And never had an American musical run so long and won so many awards.

    The idea for this drama with dancing and singing was choreographer Michael Bennett's, but he never dreamed that this little off-Broadway show would one day revolutionize the way musicals would be staged and choreographed ever after. It started in 1975 when Bennett had an open audition for dancers and interviewed them for over a 100 hours, taped their stories, and wrote a play with James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Marvin Hamlisch wrote some music, Ed Kleban some lyrics. Then Bennett asked Joe Papp, the man who gave us free Shakespeare in the Park, if he could do a little workshop at Papp's East Village Theater, The Public. And yes, the rest is history.

    But "A Chorus Line" isn't a history play despite the fact that there's been barely any modernizing -- four-letter words, the use of "gay" to mean homosexual -- and that's because the stories are all true, the emotions and experiences universal and unchanging. We always want love, attention, success. We need to have dreams. And that's why "A Chorus Line" can never get old.

    This new production is exactly the same as it was 30 years ago. Judy still stands pigeon-toed. Val still sticks out her chest and sings about the value of tits and ass in "Looks 3, Dance 10." Paul's story remains a heartbreaker, Sheila hasn't lost her groove, and Cassie and Zach still need each other. Director Bob Avian, who was Bennett's co-choreographer in '75, felt that the show didn't require any updating and he's right.

    We live with auditions every day, every one of us. Maybe we're not on "American Idol" or in a Miss America contest, but isn't a job interview the same thing? We go through the same anxious moments these dancers go through, and inside our heads, we sing our own version of, "I hope I get it."

    If there's anything new, says Avian in a "Playbill" interview, it's that today's dancers are stronger and more athletic. Reluctant at first to get involved with the revival, just watching them, he said, made him change his mind, and aren't we lucky.

    I've seen "A Chorus Line" four times now and haven't had my fill yet. Order tickets now though my guess is it may run for another 15 years. It's still one singular sensation.

    Barbara Mehlman

     

    What the press had to say.....

    BEN BRANTLEY of the NEW YORK TIMES says �Since �A Chorus Line� left Broadway only 16 years ago, to have it return more or less exactly as it was makes it feel like a vintage car that has been taken out of the garage, polished up and sent on the road once again. Now isn�t one of the points of �A Chorus Line� that musicals are not machines?� and "You can still sense the urgency that once propelled �A Chorus Line� in some of the ensemble pieces. But in providing us with an archivally and anatomically correct reproduction of a landmark show, its creators neglected to restore its central nervous system and, most important, its throbbing heart."

    JOE DZIEMIANOWICZ of the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says "The musical doesn't pack the one-two wallop of innovation and discovery it once did. How could it? But for its 2 hours and 10 minutes, it is still addictively entertaining." & "As long as "A Chorus Line" is kicking on Broadway, audiences have somewhere exciting to go."

    CLIVE BARNES of THE NEW YORK POST says "A good reproduction of a great original. But if you've seen it before, you needn't run to see it again."

    MICHAEL SOMMERS of STAR-LEDGER says "But plenty of younger people probably have never witnessed "A Chorus Line." They're fortunate -- and so are the rest of us -- that the production is a faithful and altogether loving re-creation of the late Michael Bennett's masterpiece. Welcome back, you beautiful thing."

    LINDA WINER of NEWSDAY says "The treatment of every step-kick as holy scripture brings the faint whiff of mothballs to memory lane."

    ROBERT FELDBERG of the RECORD says "The creators of the revival don't want you to forget the original; they'd like you to relive it...The result of all this, thankfully, is not a museum piece, but a vibrant re-creation. Whatever ghosts it bears, and whatever its flaws, it's a high-spirited, entertaining show that honors its predecessor."

    JACQUES LE SOURD of JOURNAL NEWS says "Unfortunately, what's missing is charisma. There isn't a drop of it on the stage."

    DAVID ROONEY of VARIETY says "While everybody works hard, no one quite dazzles. That seems dictated not by any lack of talent but by the fundamental limitations of the production's approach. Fitting into the established contours of existing performances rarely generates the same sparks as creating them from scratch. The actors onstage feel like topnotch replacements rather than originators. It's the sense of duplication -- albeit lovingly executed -- that keeps the revival from soaring."

    External links to full reviews from newspapers

    New York Times
    New York Daily News
    New York Post
    NewsDay
    The Record
    Journal News
    Variety