New York City Theater
"A Chorus Line"
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, W. 45th St.
Too many revivals on Broadway! That’s the prevailing opinion these days. But every so often a revival comes along that is an absolute must-see. Thus it is with the current staging of “A Chorus Line.” This chorus line is not only for a new generation who never saw the 1975 original, but for all of us who want to remember just how it was.
Under the direction of Bob Avian, the original show’s co-choreographer, “A Chorus Line” is faithful to the original, and that’s the way we like it. An ensemble of hard-working terrific dancers spell out the story in performance, characterization, and of course dance. There are thunderous dance numbers, but also heart-rending tales.
For any one who doesn’t know the story, “A Chorus Line” focuses on the gypsies—that is, the boys and girls (or men and women, if you will) who make up the chorus, providing back-up for the stars. It is their story—their strivings, hopes, dreams, disappointments, agonies.
The year 1975 marked show business history, taking the musical genre in a new direction. It was the first time that the chorus, not the stars, came into the limelight, getting their proper recognition. In a workshop at the Public Theatre, Michael Bennett brought together a group of aspiring young dancers to tell their stories. Out of that came the show itself, first staged at the Public and then exploding on Broadway, where it won a Pulitzer Prize and nine Tonys. By 1983 it became the longest running show in Broadway history at the time.
What is the story which emerged? Director Zach is auditioning chorus applicants for a new unnamed musical. Out of some twenty who audition, he will pick eight. He not only puts them through their paces, but he forces each to give an intimate bio. Why does/he want the job? When did he/she begin to dance? What is his/her family background? It is a grueling, relentless process, as the hopefuls dance their way in groups through routines. At the same time, a subplot moves forward. Cassie, once a star and once the lover of Zach, the director, is also trying out for the chorus. But he thinks she is much too good and will not “blend.”
Michael Bennett’s original choreography (faithfully rendered by Avian) is superb, evoking Bob Fosse and others, while putting his own stamp on the work. And Marvin Hamlisch’s music, with lyrics by Edward Kleban, captures the mood. “I Hope I Get It,” and “What I Did for Love” are among the memorable tunes.
This ensemble, with performers too numerous to mention, meets the challenge. Yet it is hard not to remember the original production. Charlotte d’Amboise, who plays Cassie, dances up a storm, but her performance does not have the dignity or stature of the original Cassie—Donna McKechnie. Charlotte d’Amboise is a frazzled Cassie, both in appearance and performance, but one looks for an interpretation, like McKechnie’s, with more depth. Others who do stand out in this ensemble are Jason Tam as Paul, Natalie Cortez as Diana, and Jessica Lee Goldyn as Val.
But the stars, truly, are the gypsies themselves, the men and women who make up the chorus of this “Chorus Line.”
-- Irene Backalenick
Oct. 14, 2006