News A Chorus Line UK tour 1998
“A Chorus Line” began in the living room of Michael Bennet’s apartment amongst a small circle of friends. They were mostly dancers suffering from the endless round of audition and rejection that is the inevitable lot of those hopefuls trying to “make it on Broadway”.
It was from this treasure of audition stories that Michael Bennet created “A Chorus Line”. He began with two tapes of these New York dancers talking about themselves: their lives, their memories, their feelings. This material was developed in two workshops under the auspices of the New York Shakespeare Festival and producer Joseph Papp. And when the show went into rehearsal, the dancers whose lives were being played out on the stage had to audition to play themselves! – and some didn’t get the part.
When the show opened it was an instant box office smash hit, and in July 1975 “A Chorus Line” moved to the Shubert Theatre on Broadway.
Joe Papp had helped Michael Bennet work out the unconventional format and presentation for the show. It certainly revolutionised the ways musicals could be presented, breaking away from a rigid narrative structure, and weaving together the individual stories of its ensemble cast of “gipsy” dancers. Bennet believed that the style of a musical should reflect its content, and the audiences of “A Chorus Line”, faced with floor to ceiling mirrors and the bare boards of a Broadway theatre, might be forgiven for thinking they were there to audition themselves and that, far from being a rehearsed show, what happens on stage is for real, and happening for the very first time.
Twenty four dancers are trying out for the chorus line of a forthcoming Broadway musical. The numbers are quickly reduced to seventeen, but still seventeen hopefuls for only eight jobs. Zach, the choreographer, becomes almost a puppetmaster, retiring outside the stage lights to interrogate these seventeen candidates, remorselessly probing their motivations and aspirations. We get to know the individual dancers intimately in this process of self-revelation through words, music and movement until, towards the end when some of them must inevitably be losers, we suffer along with them, just as we also rejoice with the winners.
That rare combination, a ground-breaking work of art that moves and disturbs as it entertains and thrills, “A Chorus Line” lives and breathes the struggles of all of us to transcend the ordinary in pursuit of the extraordinary, a struggle which is as relevant today as it was in the seventies.