Superbreak’s Marketing, E-Commerce and Commercial Director, Darren Neylon recently attended A Chorus Line at London’s Palladium Theatre. Here’s what he made of the show…
A Chorus Line – One Singular Sensation
I went with Superbreak to see the West End musical, A Chorus Line, with preconceived expectations of glitzy tap dancing, sparkling costumes and a continual stream of big hit numbers on a dazzling Broadway stage. I even read somewhere that theatre-goers would be “dancing in the aisles”! Well, this really was an exercise in expectation management. Sure, there were some occasional big tunes, and a bit of glitzy sparkle at the end, but it was a completely different experience to what I imagined would be the case. I emerged wondering to myself whether I had enjoyed it and found that my confusion stemmed from the fact that my own expectations of the story had been way off radar.
A Chorus Line was born in New York in 1975 and has wowed audiences across the globe ever since. I pondered what had made this show so successful and enduring over the decades. As I said, it’s not about leading ladies and smash hits, it’s instead about the trials, tribulations and daily slog of the people who make up the supporting casts of the theatre. It delves into the toughness of the auditioning process, some begging for jobs, most living on the bread line with no hope of financial security. It explores their backgrounds – homosexuality in a less-accepting era , bullying, abuse, psychological trauma, physical injury, failed relationships and fragile contracts – all within the confines of a dark, empty stage. I did think that each character’s introductory expose’ took an excessively long time, but afterwards realised that this really was the essence of the show.
After almost 40 years of my own hard-won experience of being subjected to amateur tap and ballet schools, firstly as the brother of a sister who spent the majority of her first 20 years of leisure time donning a fake smile on the dance stage, and then as a father to a daughter who has literally done the same thing for the next 19 years, I feel strangely empowered to comment on this show. Of the millions who start down this track, only a select few actually make it to the big time, and even then it’s an extremely difficult life. This show provides a fascinating insight into this process while at the same time entertaining audiences with personal drama and skilful dance routines. I always think it must be difficult to purposely sing or dance badly when you’ve been classically trained for years to do the exact opposite, but those who did so carried it off very well.
Highlights for me included the very leggy, Leigh Zimmerman (as Sheila), who almost stole the show with her one-liners, Rebecca Herszenhorn (as Val), who amused us by singing about her ‘tits ‘n’ arse’ used to great effect to further her career, the singing of Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (as Diana) and Scarlett Strallen (as Cassie), who is now somewhat of a West End legend following lead roles in Singin’ in the Rain and Mary Poppins. I also enjoyed the mirrored backdrop to the stage which reflected a mirror-image of the audience, providing a glimpse of the imposing and somewhat intimidating scene which must confront theatre casts on stage every night of the week.
Whether the lyric ‘One singular sensation’ critically describes the show as lamely having only one glitzy dance moment at the very end, or that it accurately depicts the life of a supporting dance cast member who enjoys no real standout moments in their careers, or that it perfectly defines the entire show as an excellent, heart-felt portrayal of the grunt and grind of theatre life, is totally down to the eye of the beholder. The fact that this show has been entertaining audiences the world over for 38 years means that everyone must have their own different answers to that question. I thoroughly recommend you go along with Superbreak to find out for yourselves.