A Chorus Line

Conceived by Michael Bennett, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban
Sadler's Wells and Jonathan Church Theatre Productions with Curve
Curve Theatre, Leicester

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Cast of A Chorus Line Credit: Marc Brenner
Adam Cooper (Zach) and the cast of A Chorus Line Credit: Marc Brenner
Carly Mercedes Dyer (Cassie) Credit: Marc Brenner
Mireia Mambo (Richie), Amy Thornton (Sheila), Katrina Dix (Ensemble), Chloe Sanders (Val) Credit: Marc Brenner
Cast of A Chorus Line Credit: Marc Brenner

Christmas 2021 and Curve chose A Chorus Line, the long-running and multi-award-winning 1975 Broadway show, as its first post-COVID production, presenting it as a love song to theatre and those whose livelihoods had been abruptly ended by the pandemic. The revival received wide acclaim and appearances on The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals and Britain’s Got Talent.

Now back at Curve, and with co-producers Sadler’s Wells and Jonathan Church Theatre, director Nikolai Foster has reassembled many of the original 2021 cast and creatives for a UK tour.

Michael Bennett was the driving force behind this musical’s original success, with Kirkwood and Dante’s book an amalgamation of the personal stories of performers set to Marvin Hamlisch’s rock- and pop-influenced score and Edward Kleban’s unflinching lyrics. We’re very much in the meta-musical genre here, living through the grind and anxiety of the audition process with 17 hopefuls as they are gradually whittled down to 8.

A Chorus Line was a groundbreaking musical back in the 1970s, with no interval, minimal costume changes and no outright leading characters. The focus is on each character’s backstory, reasons for dancing and dreams for the future. So much is relatable, perfectly encapsulated in “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love” as the awkward transition from teen to adulthood is exposed. Adam Cooper as terse on-stage director Zach cajoles each auditionee to share their story; it seems intrusive, but experiences of abuse, prejudice, rejection and love are revealed, as well as the economic need for a job and desire to dance. And of course, this also shows the bonding process of a new company and helps us engage.

What is fast becoming the ubiquitous use of an on-stage, hand-held camera to project close ups on a large screen does have the benefit of revealing another view and, in this case, gives glimpses into a character’s internal monologue (and my recollection from the previous production is that this device is now utilised less frequently, thankfully).

This is a great cast: Redmand Rance as exuberant Mike Costa in “I Can Do That”, Jocasta Almgill’s portrayal of Diana’s growing confidence as an actor in “Nothing”, Chloe Sanders giving it her all as Val in “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three”.

Carly Mercedes Dyer as the over-qualified Cassie starting over in the chorus gives a painful glimpse of her and Zach’s past relationship. No fault of the performers, but more of an insight into Zach’s motivations would be nice to see, but as this is about the chorus line, then maybe that is a story for another show.

And as a show about dancers, choreography is clearly a key element, and Ellen Kane’s refresh does real justice to this challenging musical—the stage is alive with dynamic jazz, ballet and modern dance. Edd Lindley’s costumes add a quirky, eclectic, '70s aesthetic, with the cast’s only costume change into gold, glamour and glitz for their final top hat and tails number.

Curve’s cavernous stage is almost ready-made for designer Grace Smart, its significant height and depth brought into sharp focus by Howard Hudson’s lighting design. Hudson gets to play with all the toys in “One”, the stunning final number all ablaze with huge lighting rigs and pyrotechnics.

This is an absorbing production, the almost-two hours and no interval doesn’t feel too long and the cast are superb. As a mirror of the plot of the show, this is a real bringing together of talent to perform as one satisfying whole.

Reviewer: Sally Jack

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