Culture: Theatre

Beige Recommends: A Chorus Line


A few weeks ago I saw a show which was average. Some good numbers. Some dull moments. But a friend who was at the same production disagreed. From row C he thought the show was tremendous, and blamed my opinion on the position of my seat, which was towards back of the stalls. He may have a point, but it is my belief, if a show is good, it can be enjoyed from anywhere in the auditorium, irrespective of situation or budget.

Last night my belief was confirmed. As I sat 8 rows from the front of the stage, my 6ft 4 frame unfortunately blocked out the view of a tiny woman sitting directly behind me. So as the lights dimmed I offered to move, but the nearest available seat was 20 rows back. Surprisingly my move was fortuitous. From this distant viewpoint, A Chorus Line became a masterclass of clarity, with genius staging, stunning lighting design and superb choreography.

As the hopeful dancers assembled across the Palladium’s vast stage attempting to impress the disembodied voice of auditioning director Zach, we were instantly transported back to 1975, the optimistic world of pre-AIDS Broadway. This is not because of the cast’s leg warmers, leotards and flares, but entirely due the ground breaking, simplistic, contemporary vision of Michael Bennett, the original shows choreographer, deviser and director, which has been beautifully recreated by his long time co-choreographer, 76 year old Bob Avian.

When first was staged, A Chorus Line’s ‘behind the scene’s’ narrative about the personal revelations of a group of dancers during an audition and the subsequent elimination process, caused a sensation. There had never been a musical which exposed harsh showbiz reality in such a candid and confrontational way. Sadly now the shows insight has lost much of it’s initial impact, due our bombardment of countless X- Factor style reality TV shows.

But what it lacks in relevance it more than makes up for with invention, exuberance and humour. The talented cast, led by John Partridge and Scarlett Strallen, work incredibly hard bringing the legendary production to life. The late Marvin Hamlisch’s memorable score still excites, the famous finale still has the power to raise both a high kick and the hairs on your neck, and everyone, yes everyone, still leaves the theatre singing ‘ One’. It’s remarkable.

By the late 1980’s, Michael Bennett and many of his creative team had died of AIDS. Now, almost 40 years after it’s début,  A Chorus Line can be seen as fine tribute to those highly creative visionaries, who with a simple set, strong songs and inventive choreography created an enduring worldwide phenomenon, which even today, has the power to engage an entire auditorium.

Words: Martin Green


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