Wednesday, June 25, 2008

singular, indeed

Last Wednesday I got to see a wonderful performance of A Chorus Line at the Ahmanson Theatre, which was definitely a culturally enlightening experience for me. A Chorus Line ended up being one of those things which is packed full of things that have been referenced in pop culture, and finally seeing it allowed me to contextualize all of those references.

As a dancer, and someone who (like most of us) entertained a few stage fantasies as a child, I very much enjoyed the portrait of the young wannabes in search of a chance to share the spotlight. At first, knowing that no intermission was going to come to break up the narrative, I was unsure about what story would unfold over the course of the show. It seems simple enough of a setup: some of the dancers will get a part, and some won't. But as the musical numbers unfold, it becomes an exploration of the personality traits which unite dancers across talent levels and backgrounds.

"At the Ballet" and "Hello 12, Hello 13, Hello Love," in particular, were the two songs which I felt really dug into the passionate emptiness of the dancers. That isn't to say that I feel that all dancers are beset with body image problems and daddy issues, but that most dancers have experienced the healing qualities of dancing and performing. What unfurls as a real-time representation of a crowded Broadway tryout is packed with the thoughts and feelings of the dancers, sometimes masked by their on-stage personae, as they vacillate between opening up to the choreographer about themselves and expressing their inner monologues to the audience.

There were some numbers which definitely felt dated in the mid-1970s style of the original, which has definitely been a conscious choice made by the directors of every iteration of the musical since then, and by the second hour, the lack of an intermission was certainly having an impact on audience attention span. Though Cassie and Paul are both very interesting characters, their soliloquies contributed to a slump in the second half. Spreading out the highly energetic medleys and very amusing numbers like "Dance Ten, Looks Three," would have kept the feel of the musical more even, I think. However, by the glittering finale of "One (Reprise)," there is so much onstage to look at and be impressed by that I left the theatre with a definite spring in my step.

A Chorus Line will be at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles through July 6.

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