I walked into the Capitol Theatre to see A Chorus Line over the weekend and I did so with absolutely no idea what to expect.
A Chorus Line is, of course, compulsory viewing for any music theatre buff. And yet, a revival of any such show can only usher up those familiar doubts about the ability of… well, anyone, anywhere, to replicate the legendary original.
Broadway these days is heavy on revivals. And frequently they founder simply by virtue of the fact that they did not live up to the hype surrounding their original productions. This can occur with decades intervening and with nothing but cherished memories, word of mouth and weather-worn cast albums to promote the legend. And yet there are shows which are only now being tentatively revived, and with sincere doubts as to whether that makes good show-business.
A Chorus Line is one of those shows.
The original Broadway cast recording is the stuff of legend. With performances and an exuberance that leaps out of the speakers, you are transported by it into the world of the theatre and the lives of the “gypsies” involved.
Reproducing the dynamic of this Pulitzer Prize winning musical and its legendary original cast on any stage anywhere – you are confronting the demons of its past, and facing expectations that are often incredibly high.
Having read AussieTheatre’s own Cassie Tongue’s review (which I highly recommend!), I went in expecting a first rate production. What I got was a life moment – when you get to see a great piece of theatre done sublimely well.
Having now seen the show, this remarkable Australian touring production, I can only state my categorical amazement that it has not stormed into Sydney accompanied by the most extraordinary word of mouth support!
That original Broadway cast recording is a gem, but nothing captures the genius of this show like a truly well mounted live production. And that is what we are so lucky to have playing at the Capitol right now!
A Chorus Line is, as many will already know, the story of a collection of Broadway dancers – “gypsies” – the ensemble players, who are auditioning for a major Broadway director/choreographer who decides to make the unorthodox decision to interview them as part of their audition process. It remains unique as one of the few major Broadway musicals in history to makes leads of its ensemble – none of whom are typically cast with stars.
The sense of self this production brings to the show is genuinely incredible. Primarily, this is because the talent before us on stage are all typically cast in the ensemble in Australian shows. They’re dancers. There’s not a “star” among them – and their self-possession, in character, on stage and their precision as artists is genuinely flawless.
The material they are working with is on no level at all “easy”. The score by Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch is one of the richest treasure chests of hits and heirlooms ever written for Broadway, while the script by James Kirkwood Jnr and Nicholas Dante (based on interviews with Broadway dancers) is a parable of wit, performance masterclass and genuine human emotion. It’s a delicious combination of great characters and great material. The Australian cast establish their characterisations definitively in minutes and, with raw honesty and absolute assurance, deliver throughout the show."These are the real triple threats – and what a gift it is to see them in action"
These are the real triple threats – and what a gift it is to see them in action. It can only build confidence in the Australian music theatre industry that this level of talent is available to us.
Music theatre in Australia – as with music theatre everywhere – is constantly in a state of wax and wane. Revivals of the classics are rare. Great productions are rarer still. When they do come along they need to be celebrated and savoured, and so it is with this show at the Capitol.
A top notch Australian cast are putting on a truly great performance, and while tonight I was assured the show frequently sells out, with a production this good… I’m slightly scandalised that the entire Sydney run has not sold out!"I’m slightly scandalised that the entire Sydney run has not sold out!"
A Chorus Line presents a rarely proffered perspective of the music theatre industry – equal parts endangered and celebrated. In some ways the show has almost rendered itself obsolete, as the make-up of music theatre has altered so dynamically since its inception – the days in which Jerry Herman and Jule Styne penned star vehicles dominated Broadway. And yet, with mega-musicals like Legally Blonde, The Addams Family and King Kong on their way to Australian theatres, the view point of A Chorus Line has never been more prevalent.
When watching Legally Blonde’s death defying dance numbers such as ‘Whipped Into Shape’ or the intricacies of The Addams Family’s Greek chorus of undead, spare a thought and a glance for the ensemble.
A Chorus Line’s closest thing to a lead – the waning dance star Cassie – expounds the notion that the members of the chorus are all stars. They may not get the billing or their names in lights – but without them a great art-form would be lost to the world.
In short: go see A Chorus Line. It may be a while until we see it’s like again.
This is a production deserving of the expression “hottest ticket in town”. Get them while they last.
A Chorus Line is running a limited season presently at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre and will close next Saturday night – August 11 – before touring to Perth and Brisbane.
Visit achorusline.com.au for more information