The Music and The Mirror: A Chorus Line Review

Theatre Breaks

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a-chorus-line-post-imageHaving grown up wanting to be painter I have never known the recurring agony and heartache that comes hand in hand with a life devoted to musical theatre. Sure, I attended the odd ballet lesson when I was a little girl but I quickly learned that I wasn’t very coordinated, and as puberty hit my new-found hips revealed that I would never have had the genes for it anyway. Perhaps if I had known the nerve-wracking trauma of having to audition for a role that I so desperately wanted, I would have felt more moved by my recent theatre break to see A Chorus Line at the London Palladium.

The show had all the makings of a superb production; stunning choreography, catchy, sing-a-long songs, fantastic actors and wonderfully retro costumes, but I just wasn’t wowed. I did enjoy the show overall but think it would have been much better appreciated by someone who was fully immersed in the world of dance and musicals.

The longest running musical in New York’s history, A Chorus Line tells the true stories of a group of dancers trying to secure roles within a new Broadway show. The new London revival of the 1975 musical features the original score by the late Marvin Hamlisch and stars John Partridge (Cats, Grease, EastEnders), Leigh Zimmerman (Chicago) and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (West Side Story), who’s performance of ‘What I Did For Love’ was magnificent.

For me, the star of the show by a mile was the sensational Scarlett Strallen who played the role of racy red dress wearing Cassie. My favourite moment in the show was when a crescent of nine mirrors descended around her during her solo performance. Suddenly there were ten Scarletts in scarlet twisting, tumbling, floating, bursting, turning and tapping on the stage; joined only by the faces of the mesmerised audience reflecting back at us. As her character tried harder and harder to not to stand out and to become just one of the Chorus Line, she captivated me more and more and I found myself waiting for a Cassie-centric finale that sadly never came.

Through song, dance and individual monologues the other dancers revealed the journeys they had each been on that led them to want to appear in the Chorus. The sometimes monotonous way in which each of the characters’ stories were unravelled was an interesting mirror of the real experiences of dancers and actors.

While we, the audience, had to sustain our enthusiasm through tales of sad home lives and sexuality struggles, without the relief of a half time interval, we at least had the idea of a post-show drink or at least a warm bed to look forward to. For auditionees in real life, the gruelling rounds of routines, rehearsals and personal questions is a long and arduous process which only leads to success for the select few.

It’s an emotional roller coaster, but not one that I’ve had to ride. Of course there have been ups and downs in my journey from hanging up my ballet shoes, putting away my paintbrush and deciding to pick up my pen (or to tap away on my iPad nowadays), but my story hasn’t had the penetrating glare of a producer’s spotlight beaming down on it. If, unlike me, you’ve ever dreamt of being a star of the stage, or even still dare to dream, then I think A Chorus Line would strike a chord with you and make for a sensational theatre break.

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