by Julia Polinsky
City Center Gala revival of A Chorus Line touched the heart, delighted
the eye, filled the ear. Audiences went mad with applause, time after time.
Then again, much of the audience for this gala revival was, shall we say, of a
certain age, and their long memories were inclined toward worship of Michael
Bennett’s hugely successful show. No matter. Anyone of any age would be
thrilled by this A Chorus Line. Holy cow, was this one wonderful evening
in the theater.
word “groundbreaking” gets tossed around a lot, when people talk about A
Chorus Line. Back in 1975, when 42nd Street was seedy, before
the theater district was made safe for tourists, before the Naked Cowboy was
even born, A Chorus Line broke theater rules and made audiences love it.
Ran forever. Became a classic. Broadway today is what it is in part because of
classic-ness cuts two ways. Choreography, costume, and set design are set in
stone in 1975; the current director and choreographer, Bob Avian and Baayork
who were co-choreographer and cast member in the original production, keep the
show authentic to period.
potential for disaster certainly exists; if nothing changes, why bother? In a
modern Broadway that has hits like Dear Evan Hansen, The Band’s
Visit, Fun Home, who needs an ossified rerun of a musical from over 40
years ago? Not to mention, after this season’s stunning Oklahoma, it’s clear that reworking classics can bring exhilarating, vibrant new
life to old warhorses, so why not A Chorus Line?
you don’t mess with the best, that’s why. It ain’t broke. Thank God they didn’t
Hamlisch and Ed Kleban’s total earworm songs, James Kirkwood and Nicholas
Dante’s book, and the utter razzle dazzle of Michael Bennett’s iconic
choreography simply glow with life. They’re set off by Robin Wagner’s spare
scenic design, and the stark lighting, originally by Tharon Musser, adapted by
basic premise of A Chorus Line couldn’t be simpler: during auditions for
a Broadway show, the director demands that the dancers who are auditioning talk
about their lives, and why they became dancers. An ensemble piece, with no
star, the most minimal set and costumes (until the last number), the rest of
the show tells their stories, in song and dance.
of teenagers who are figuring out life, sexuality, and who they are (“At The
Ballet,” Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,”), and adult dance
professionals, opening themselves to being themselves on stage and auditioning
for Broadway. They’re competing in the Olympics of putting it all out there as
a performer (Dance: Ten; Looks: Three) and, in a way, putting themselves, and
their lives, on the line (The Music and the Mirror).
behind-the-scenes peek at heart and heartbreak, A Chorus Line asks, what
will you do for love? Can you be completely out there, onstage, all the way?
Why? And what would you do if you couldn’t dance – a question that invites
tearjerker moments and the stunning, “What I Did For Love.”
there was a bit too much “modern Broadway” voice, with its forced brightness
and throat-straining tone. Two of the high-point songs, “Nothing,” sung by Tara
Kostmayer as Diana, and Sara Esty’s Maggie, in “At The Ballet,” were sung with
too much brass and not enough heart. On the other hand, dancers in 2018 are
technically and physically stunning, and since A Chorus Line is a
dance-heavy show, stupendous dancers kick it up several notches. Anthony
Wayne’s superb Richie, Tommy Bracco’s fantastic Mike, the remarkable Tony
Yazbek as Zak, Robyn Hurder’s Cassie: just, holy cow.
an homage to the past; as a showcase for Broadway strivers; as the triumph of
determination and desire, A Chorus Line works brilliantly in the here
and now. Here’s hoping it transfers to Broadway, giving another generation the
chance to love it.
York City Center Gala Production
and Originally Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett
by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante
by Marvin Hamlisch; Lyrics by Edward Kleban
New York City Center
York City Center
W. 55th St.