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A CurtainUp Review
A Chorus Line
By Elyse Sommer
This second Broadway edition of A Chorus Line may not have a fifteen-year run like the one that ended in 1990, but it arrived at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater with a healthy enough advance to insure a full house for many months to come. Some will agree with the woman sitting in front of me who, when that energetic chorus finished it's wonderful high kicking finale declared "I think this was even better than the original." Chorus Line veterans will be divided about those disappointed that the current cast doesn't provide quite the kicks they remember and those thrilled to have a chance to experience the show once again. And of course, there will be a whole generation for whom this is a chance to see this legendary backstage musical for the first time.
Whatever memories or expectations you bring with you, you'd have to be the Scrooge of Broadway not to appreciate the theatricality of Michael Bennett's concept or to be bowled over by the "I Hope I Get It" opening. A dozen chandeliers can't beat the basic mirror backed staging. Marvin Hamlish's songs are as tuneful as ever and the wit and poignancy of Ed Kleban's lyrics still jump out at you.
The story basically recreates the intensive audition process for casting a Broadway show's dance team. The personal story telling is worked in as a way of testing the eager applicants' acting skills and its authenticity stems from the fact that the script is the result of confidences the original cast taped for Bennett.
Since this is a faithful recreation of the original production rather than an attempt to update it in any way, the revival comes with the inevitable question of timeliness. These dancers' heartfelt honesty about their lives and dreams is still a refreshing contrast to a world rife with depressing events handled with far less honesty. That said, the stick to the tried and true mission of this production also means it comes complete with fault lines: No matter how much you admire the precision of the dancing there's a certain amount of drawn out repetition that occasionally makes the show's energy feel in need of a battery recharge and the two hours without intermission now seem too long for audiences who have become more accustomed to 90 minute shows. The Cassie/Zach confrontation and the "What I Did For Love" finale are not as organic as the rest of the show and have a somewhat tacked-on, show biz flavor.
As for the cast, forget any griping you've heard from purists about these stories being told second hand. Only a percentage of people who saw the show during its original run, actually saw it with all the performers whose stories informed the book, so having the current cast telling stories that might be but aren't actually their own is not new to this revival.
The dancing of the new hopefuls now being put through the ringer is topnotch. The acting, as is to be expected from a big ensemble like this, is not all standout caliber like Chryssie Whitehead's Kristine, Tony Yazbeck's Al and Ken Alan's Bobby. Charlotte D'Amboise, who seems to have borne the brunt of the comparisons between the past and present cast, is a vulnerable, moving Cassie in her own right. My disappointment that Michael Berresse, who first made me gasp with his dancing in Kiss Me Kate, spends more time as the voice of the mostly unseen director than showing off his incredible dancing is offset by his terrific portrayal of the director who has his own inner demons to contend with.
Comparisons and quibbles notwithstanding, when the auditioning chorus — both winners and losers — take the stage for their final high stepping "One," A Chorus Line is still one helluva show.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide