A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line
Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Lyrics by Edward Kleban. Conceived and choreographed by Michael Bennett. Capitol Theatre, Sydney. July 20 – August 11, 2012.

The experience of seeing A Chorus Line has been greatly enriched in recent years by the remarkable documentary Every Little Step, which traces the origin of the work – based on real stories of real dancers.

It adds another dimension that resonates when you see this musical again staged at the highest level and think back to the originally recorded interviews that form the basis of the book.

The most poignant story of the night comes from Euan Doidge as Paul. He reveals details of his childhood as a Puerto Rican in Spanish harlem, sexual exploitation by older men in Time’s Square’s darkened theatres and experience as a Drag Queen which he tries unsuccessfully to hide from his parents.

As it turns out the story is based on the real life experience of the co-writer Nicholas Dante.

Euan Doidge made this narrative come to life in powerful way.

While the stories of the 17 dancers still resonate – it is the choreography which is the star of the night.

The athleticism and subtlety of the work is a delight. This production under the close supervision of one of the original dancers was spectacular.

Among the highlights, was the performance of Anita Louise Combe as Cassie. She is the solo artist who has to adapt her style to fit into the chorus line. At first Cassie can’t help but move in the flamboyant fashion of a solo artist but is moulded little by little to fit in with the other dancers.

It was such a strong cast of dancers you felt many of them could have shone as a solo artist.

Throughout the night there were leaps and somersaults aplenty.

Drawing the most gasps was the performance of Kurt Douglas playing the African American Richie.

He moved to the music like a champion gymnast.

At the party afterwards many cast members from the original 1977 Australian production were there to do some serious reminiscing, and a happy reunion with Baayork Lee.

It was a springboard for stardom for a number of them – and another excitement of seeing this show revived is to ponder which superstar of the future were we watching this time around.

David Spicer.

Deep within the DNA of A Chorus Line is embedded the choreography of the late great Michael Bennett, carried forward with love, vitality and missionary zeal by original cast member Baayork Lee. It’s integral and indivisible from the piece, like the landmark Jerome Robbins choreography for West Side Story.

If the Marvin Hamlisch score occasionally ties portions of it to the 1970s, so be it.

Though my first encounter thrill, as an audience member at the stunning original Australian production, can never be eclipsed, the current production will still ensure a powerful introduction to a new generation for the Bennett choreography, impressively danced, and the humanity of the individual dancers’ stories.

A Chorus Line continues to work, not because it’s a fabulous backstage musical, but because it’s a powerful metaphor for anyone’s dreams and aspirations.

And what other musical has the entire cast share its title role. In the spectacular precision of the stunning finale, ‘One’, you know exactly why. It’s a moment of special theatrical magic in front of those mirrors.

Rarely does musical theatre inspire catharsis. It’s a moment I wasn’t going to recapture on my seventh viewing, but I like to think newcomers in the audience may share the elevated state in which I left Sydney’s Her Majesty’s Theatre back in 1977.

Neil Litchfield

Photographer: James Morgan.

Note: Stage Whispers’ only disappointment relates to the notes in the glossy program, seemingly an uncredited straight pinch from Wikipedia. The stunning original Australian production and cast aren’t discussed in the online 'encyclopedia', so don’t rate a mention in the apparently single source cut and paste in this Australian program. Oh for the well researched program notes of so many past revival programs, instead of such false economies.

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