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A Chorus Line
a Musical
by James Kirkwood, Music by Marvin Hamlisch, Lyrics by Edward Kleban

COMPANY : Theater of the Stars [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Fabulous Fox [WEBSITE]
ID# 3331

SHOWING : March 03, 2009 - March 08, 2009



Five, six seven eight ...

One of the longest-running musicals ever comes back to show us it's timeless and classic and still a "Singular Sensation."

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What do You Do For Love?
by Dedalus
Thursday, March 12, 2009
last week, a new tour of “A Chorus Line” parked its dance bags on the Fabulous Fox’s Stage. After 34 years, what more can be written about this perennial favorite? During the seventies (I was in my twenties, then), I’d seen the play about a half dozen times, loving it every time. Even though I trip over all my left feet every time I try to dance, I still saw it as “my” story – a young person’s story of drive, of ambition, of finding that muse that gives meaning to life.

Now that I’m in my fifties, a different muse, a different drive gets me through the day, but I still can’t help but find a place of affection for this piece. The years haven’t been that unkind to it, this particular revival adds nothing new to it, but I’ve grown and changed and can see it through very different eyes. And, for the most part, I truly like what I see.

So, what has changed? The opening number now seems to stretch on for a bit too long (do we really need to see EVERY auditioner go through the same combination?), the cast seems too 70’s politically correct (each cast member represents a single particular cultural/ethnic combination), the pseudo-suspense of “who will be cast” falls a tad flat (we’ve all seen it so many times, there is no suspense**), the adolescence number (“Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen”) seems endless (it ALWAYS struck me as too long), and Paul’s story of self-loathing and abandonment carries post-Matthew-Shepard baggage that makes it seem “what’s the big deal” mild, almost sweet.

But all this pales in comparison to everything that still works. The youthful drive and energy of the cast (were any of them even alive when the show first opened?), the confessions that strike at the heart at choosing a necessarily short-term career in dance, the bits of candor that strike recognizable chords, the air of hopeful desperation and half-expected rejection. I still love the simplistic stagecraft, the mirrors that multiply the cast into infinity, the faceless final number that drives home the point that these are NOT the stars of tomorrow. And I still love the climactic “What would you do if you can’t dance?” scene, a dramatic high point that ties the show together and underscores that these kids are in it because they have no other choice – they can’t NOT dance.

Even though this staging is a step-by-step, costume-by-costume, moment-by-moment recreation of the original production, it still feels new and fresh, not a mummified museum piece (like last year’s “Oklahoma”). This cast inhabits the characters without slavishly mimicking those who’ve played them before. I was especially impressed by Gabrielle Ruiz’ Diana, Clyde Alves’ Mike, Kevin Santos’ Paul, and Robyn Hurder’s Cassie, all of whom found moments that surprised and rang true. If some of the others drifted into tried-and-true caricature, they were never dishonest or half-hearted. And, when they all high-kick their way into anonymous synchronization, it’s a joy to watch. If I have one complaint, it’s that 21st-Century sound technology lets them fall into breathy head voices when a good Broadway Belt would be preferred. Still, it’s a good sound, and the Fox’s typical technical glitches were nowhere in evidence.

Which, of course, begs the question with which I started this column – how have the years changed me and my perception of this show? Well, the “Things I do for Love” have definitely suffered some “scope creep.” The acquisition of family (and mortgage) have rearranged my priorities, and there’s little I cannot NOT do (seeing plays and writing about them being the obvious exception). Rather than identifying with these characters as I did in my twenties, I now look at them with nostalgia, with an older person’s sense of “I wish I could find that passion again.” It helps that even though the original 70’s time frame is retained, it comes across as timeless – few changes would have to be made to script or costume to bring it “up-to-date,” or even regress it to an earlier era. It also helps that I haven’t seen it recently (the last time was sometime during the Carter administration), so it doesn’t have that seen-too-many-times staleness that many old favorites can accumulate.

So, to fall back on a critic’s cliché, “A Chorus Line” is still a “Singular Sensation” that, in spite of a few passing-decades-stress-cracks, can still high-kick its way into your heart. It is a young person’s show that brought back to life the young person I still believe I am.

-- Brad Rudy (

** Wouldn’t an interesting twist be to alter the ending so a different eight are chosen each performance? The cast wouldn’t know if they were being “cast,” the audience would have its expectations ripped akimbo, and the long final walk into position would actually have some real suspense. Just a thought.



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