A Chorus Line is 120 minutes of musical theatre celebrating itself, purely demonstrating the glitz of performing on a big stage, but the hard graft that comes in equal measure. This is a major revival of a groundbreaking American musical suitably timed to pay a great tribute to the multi award-winning composer, Marvin Hamilisch, who unexpectedly passed in August 2012.
Led by the superb, well-known Eastender, John Partridge, seventeen dancers are each fighting for one of the eight places available in the chorus. This bunch of twinkletoes is superb across the board, and it’s a delight to spend two hours getting to know them, and why gaining a place on the stage is so important. What begins as just another audition becomes an audition tied up with emotion and significance.
The essential commitment to every pointed toe and every note flies from the stage in abundance; we leave the Palladium in absolute awe. Sheila (the stunning Leigh Zimmerman) is on the path to becoming the woman her mother never was; Ed Currie effortlessly lives up to the demands of hilarious Bobby; heartbreak comes in the form of Paul, whose story won’t be overly dissimilar to many watching, which is meticulously told and beautifully handled by Gary Wood; and then there’s Cassie. She’s the pinnacle of this production, and the desperation to see her solo dance is felt unanimously throughout the auditorium, for which Scarlett Strallen receives a rapturous applause. It’s one of the most majestic things to be found on a West End stage and will move you the length of the Thames.
The repetition of monologues and solo performances is gripping if a little heavy and lacking an interval. It’s certainly not a problem or hindrance, barely even that notable, but the number of people leaving during the performance (certainly on the night I went) is all of the above. The simplicity is spellbinding, and the use of mirrors as an alternate backdrop (designed by Robin Wagner) is intelligently employed. This musical was last found in London in 1976 on Drury Lane, and this is a testament to the timeless classic that is welcomed back in town with open arms.
This production is booking until January 2014 at the London Palladium: http://www.achoruslinelondon.com
Download the music: A Chorus Line (Original Broadway Cast) - Original Broadway Cast
Adam Penny is the founder and managing editor of the brilliant and indispensable London theatre review site: What’s Peen Seen?
This article was originally published on What’s Peen Seen?