A Chorus Line - still sensational

By Michael Manton, Friday 1 March 2013

More than 30 years on from it's last West End outing, A Chorus Line is kicking and leaping its way across the London Palladium stage with this fantastic new production.
A Chorus Line at the London PalladiumA Chorus Line at the London Palladium

Long before The X-Factor and The Voice, A Chorus Line fed into our thirst for behind-the-scenes glimpses into the cutthroat world of showbiz, a theatrical spectacular where the auditions became the real star of the show.

37 years later and Broadway's young upstart has become one of the most beloved musicals in the modern canon. It's the fifth-longest running show in Broadway history and has won practically every award available, including a Pulitzer Prize for Drama

The beauty of A Chorus Line is in the simplicity of the story and music, all of which is conducted on a bare stage, with no props and nothing but a few mirrors.

17 dancers are auditioning for eight roles in the chorus line of a new show. As the director whittles them down to the final eight, they're asked to open up and tell us something real, about where they come from, or why they started dancing.

Instantly, these anonymous dancers become fascinating, flawed people. We hear about broken homes, fear of failure, their aspirations to greatness and, in the case of Puerto Rican boy, a startlingly emotional story of being discovered by his parents dancing in a drag revue.

The musical is based on recorded conversations with real ensemble dancers from New York in the seventies and is intended to make us aware of the individuality of the many dancers that form the backdrop to the musicals we watch.

The irony is that, just as we've got to know them as individuals, they are dressed up in matching gold costumes for the show's big finale “One”, instantly reduced to mere cogs in the production machines – the inevitable fate for all those who make up a chorus line.

As far as revivals go, it's spot on. All too often a revival attempts to fix something that was never broken in the first place. This production makes no claims to rework the original. The director, Bob Avian, co-choreographed the original 1975 production and has reproduced it here perfectly.

If there's any fault with the show it's that nothing quite beats the opening number (“I Hope I Get It”), 10 minutes of high-octane dance that had large sections of the audience whooping with joy.

At the end of it all, you're left with the realisation that the real power of musical theatre isn’t in expensive, extravagant sets or in complicated costumes. It’s in great writing and a great score - those moments when emotion and music collide in a great story.

"Nothing runs for ever," says a character in A Chorus Line. Maybe not, but this reviewer's certainly sad that this show doesn't.

You can buy tickets to A Chorus Line on our theatre ticket website.


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