Musical

 

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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

A Chorus Line

 

'One' from A Chorus Line at London Palladium

Photo by Manuel Harlan

 

The Broadway Production

Music by Marvin Hamlisch

Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante

Lyrics by Edward Kleban

Conception, Original Direction and Choreography by Michael Bennett

Direction and Original co-choreography by Bob Avian

Costume Design by Theoni V. Aldredge

Musical Direction by Alan Williams

 

London Palladium

 

Booking until January 2014

 

The set of A Chorus Line would appear minimal in any surroundings but swathed in the extravagant splendour of the London Palladium it is even starker, unavoidably so. Before the show begins the entire auditorium is plunged into utter darkness meaning the focus begins and ends on an illuminated Chorus Line on a black-box stage. For a two hour show without interval an all-star cast endure an intense New York audition with a view to a hot-spot in a Broadway Chorus. Apparently ruthless director Zach (John Partridge), whose undoubtedly soft-centre is exposed at intervals, commands the action from alternating positions as a member of the onstage cast and as an authoritative voice, unseen.

The storyline fails to pack maximum punch in an era when auditions complete with intensely personal revelations and curious characters are general fodder on Saturday-night television. This is no fault of the production and it is conceivable that the popular appeal and entertainment-value of such a format was discovered with no small thanks to the stunning success of A Chorus Line, debuted in 1975. The music, however, transcends such constraints. Under the direction of Alan Williams the orchestra seamlessly guide an enthralled audience through a range of unmistakably catchy numbers. These include “The Music and the Mirror” a solo danced by beguiling yet reluctant lead Cassie (Scarlett Strallen). Mirrors serve to illuminate her dancing prowess and compound the fact that her dancing represents a complete exposition of herself.

There are other moments of brilliant staging, as when the entire cast, standing on the Chorus Line, hold their black and white headshots in front of their faces creating a visually dazzling scene. Given that the show proceeds to expose the innermost desires and anxieties of the ambitious cast this briefly self-conscious moment introduces the inevitable theme of masquerade, best face-forward and the power of appearance in show business. A Chorus Line directly confronts a range of themes from childhood trauma through adolescence to the formation of sexual and creative identity. Some of the script is delightfully forthright as when Mark (Harry Francis) describes his first wet dream and his hypochondriac self-diagnosis as well as the candid religious intervention he sought.

Costumes perfectly capture the personalities of the cast members. Sheila’s (Leigh Zimmerman) sumptuous ballet apparel enhances her natural air of grace and sophistication. Her ready access to valium and her sardonic wit belie her age and experience. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt plays feisty Diana and in a show without defined protagonists, manages to represent some kind of straight-talking lynchpin. Her costume further enhances this impression calling DC Comics’ Wonder Woman to mind.

A Chorus Line is nothing short of an extravaganza, a preposterously feel-good festival of talent performed by a cast who are practically devoid of a weak point.

 

 

'One' from A Chorus Line at London Palladium

Photo by Manuel Harlan

 

London Palladium
Argyll Street, Soho, London W1F 7TF
Box Office  0844 412 2957
www.achoruslinelondon.com
 
Tickets: £19.50 - £65
 
 

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