“A Chorus Line” is, and always has been, a dance show. There’s no overture, the show begins with a scene depicting a grueling audition, as a grim-faced director puts a group of sweaty, determined, nervous dancers through their paces.
The dancers at the audition are well aware that they are being judged, and each is desperately hoping to be hired. Each is also terrified that they’ve just made a fatal mistake in their dance steps.
“[Unison singing] God, I really blew it, I really blew it, how could I do a thing like that? Now I’ll never make it. I’ll never make it. He doesn’t like the way I look. He doesn’t like the way I dance. He doesn’t like… (music)
And that is all you need to know about the plot, because there’s not a lot of story in this show. There are lovely soliloquies offering insights into the lives and feelings of individual dancers. But most of these are fleeting and superficial – only one or two characters emerge in a three-dimensional way.
The show does address issues of sexual orientation in a way that was pretty candid for the 1970s. And the lyrics include a few four-letter words that were daring at the time – when “A Chorus Line” was new, it was a fascinating, unromantic glimpse into the backstage reality that underlies the glittering, carefree dance routines we enjoy in musicals. But seeing “A Chorus Line” now, it doesn’t feel nearly as revolutionary as it did several decades ago.
So what we have at the Music Circus is a well mounted production of a show that may have lived beyond its sell-by date. Sure, the dancing is still terrific, and the singing is good, too. But there are a lot of other shows that have worked this same dramatic territory during the past 40 years, some in a more profound way than “A Chorus Line.” And now, some younger people may come away from this show feeling a bit perplexed, and wondering what all the fuss was about.
The Music Circus production of “A Chorus Line” continues through June 29 in Sacramento’s Wells Fargo Pavilion.
NPR story about 1970s launch of “A Chorus Line”
NPR story about documentary film about the origins of “A Chorus Line”
NPR interview with composer Marvin Hamlisch about the great sacrifice that made “A Chorus Line” possible
2012 obituary for composer Marvin Hamlisch
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