Sunday, 29 July 2012

One singular sensation

Musical –

A Chorus Line
Producer/Company –
Tim Lawson
Venue –
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne
Date and time –
Thursday, 23 February 2012, 8pm
Sunday, 4 March 2012, 2pm

For many years, ‘A Chorus Line’ held the record as the longest-running Broadway show ever, and it still sits high in that top ten. This production was part of an Australian tour, and was based on the revival, which is still playing in New York.

This show is also one of the few major musicals – then and now – that limits its reliance on theatrical gimmicks. The tag line for ‘A Chorus Line’ is: ‘Seventeen dancers. Eight spots. One dream.’ As such, the heart of this show is the dancing, which illuminates a clutch of memorable songs, interwoven through a series of touching, memorable stories.

‘A Chorus Line’ is a true Broadway legend, in that the stories featured in this show are based upon real accounts provided by performers, given during the formative workshop phase of this show in 1974. As such, the narrative is somewhat unconventional. The overarching plot is framed in the work that the characters undertake for the director/choreographer, to determine who will be chosen for the chorus of a forthcoming Broadway musical. The flow of the piece is well maintained, though, through a series of character vignettes, which endears the characters to the audience whilst still giving the show momentum.

The strength of this production lay in what arguably may be one of the strongest ensembles you will see in musical theatre in Australia. Everyone on the stage was a true ‘triple threat’: performers equally skilled in dancing, singing and acting. While it’s true that musical theatre cast members in Australia today need to be well-honed in all facets of performance, this show requires the adeptness of an all-rounder, and the audience was not disappointed in this regard.

I was fortunate to see ‘A Chorus Line’ twice, and the high calibre of the performers was obvious both times. In the first viewing, there were some unfortunate microphone sound issues for two of the performers. Such was their skill, though, that they were able work to overcome the problems, simply by singing to the back wall of the theatre, as performers used to in the ‘olden days’ before the introduction of amplified sound. In the second viewing, one of the swings played the role of ‘Greg’. Again, such was the quality of the performer, and of the ensemble, that their integration into the show was seamless, and you would have assumed him a regular cast member.

Several performance highlights in this production included: Anita Louise Combe’s turn as ‘Cassie, particularly for her work in ‘The Music and the Mirror’; Hayley Winch as ‘Val’, who gave us the laugh-out-loud ‘tits and ass’ number, ‘Dance: Ten; Looks: Three’; and, Euan Doidge, whose wonderfully nuanced portrayal of ‘Paul’ left many of the audience misty-eyed. Indeed, I could extol the virtues of the whole cast of ‘A Chorus Line’, such was the strength of their work. And they all made the dancing look effortless, although we all know differently.

Exhaustingly excellent
(The Abusicals two-word summary is, of course, tongue-in-cheek.)

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