October 04, 2006

A Chorus Line - (spoilers)

Chorus Line MarquisI was waiting until the play officially opened before writing a review. The revival of A Chorus Line opens tomorrow night, October 5, 2006, at the Schoenfeld (formerly the Plymouth) Theater on 45th Street in New York City. During the one week of previews I worked, the show was sold out, standing room only, every night.

I'll describe the experience of seeing the show.

When the audience walks into the theater, instead of seeing a big velvet curtain, all they see is a black empty stage with a white piece of tape forming line down front. That line plays an important part throughout the show, right up to the blackout at the end. Once everybody is settled, the lights dim a little, an announcement welcomes people to the show and reminds everyone in the audience to turn off their cell phones. Then the lights go completely dark and the audience falls completely silent.

After three seconds of silence, you hear a piano play a bouncy introduction - bah bump bah bump bah bump bah.

The orchestra follows with a hint of what's to come musically and the lights come up to reveal about 30 dancers practicing a routine in the huge mirror upstage - backs to the audience. They are following steps being taught by ZACH - the choreographer responsible for finding 8 people for his show. After a few minutes , ZACH wants to see them dance so everyone turns around, ZACH counts out 5, 6, 7, 8 and the orchestra explodes when everyone simlutaneously bursts out into their routine.

The audience roared with applause at this point of every performance I saw.

If you don't know the show, A Chorus Line is based on what happens at a dance audition. And by the time Zach makes his first cut, you've already learned enough about the process to understand how painful it is to be selected to leave so early in the audition process.

Zach chooses 9 women and 8 men. They line up on the white tape and bring their 8 x 10's up in front of their faces. By this time Zach has moved to the back of the theater and is speaking to them over a microphone. He tells them that this audition process is going to be a little different. He expects them to talk about themselves. Those stories are the heart of the show. Each of the people in the line tell their stories through song and dance and by the end of the show, you end up emotionally invested in each one of them.

I don't want to completely spoil the show for those who haven't seen it. I will say that the ending is really exciting and chokes me up each time I watch it. I'm getting teary eyed thinking about how to describe how I felt watching it. I'm guessing most people know what happens at the end but like I said, I don't want to ruin what could be a spectacular payoff to a show well watched.

But I did want to share the experience of seeing the opening of this show because it is so well done - like the good opening to that classic novel. Act I of any show is always my favorite part with the first 10 minutes being the most exciting. If its' a good show, you should understand the set up in the first 15 minutes.

This revival of A Chorus Line is wonderful. Of course I have no point of comparison. I heard some people say that ZACH wasn't seen until much later in the original production - that he was a disembodied voice giving instructions to nervous dancers hungry for work like the VOICE OF GOD. From what I hear, that's the greatest difference between this and the original production.

All the performers are great. And it's really nice to see good performers doing good material for a change. This show and the people in it make me want to be a part of Broadway. A Chorus Line makes me want to be a little girl seeing her first Broadway show and being inspired to study dance. It makes me want to do something spectacular that moves people to tears.

Spend the money. See the show. Don't delay.

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