Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Chorus Line : First Night Previews – 5th February – London Palladium

Having recently attended my very first closing performance, this was another first for me. The first night of previews; a new production, never before seen. It was also my first trip to the Palladium.

Lots of firsts going on there.

After a little trouble finding the theatre, I finally got there 10 mins before the start. No problem, though – it was so packed with people the show went up late anyway by the time everyone had been herded in.

A Chorus Line has the slightly later start time at 7.45pm and I must say this 15 minutes makes all the difference – I much prefer it to a 7.30pm start. It just feels more manageable.

The audience had a much higher percentage of ‘young’ people (20s & 30s) than older people which is quite unusual. I’m not sure if this was because the show appeals to a younger demographic or if it was because there were certainly a lot of performers in the audience supporting their friends (I didn’t recognise any, incidentally, except for a girl who used to be in Hollyoaks).

The best thing about so many performers in the audience? - the atmosphere. I don’t think I’ve ever been part of such a lively audience.

The really unique thing about this musical is the lack of set. It felt quite odd to see such a huge stage so empty and yet this is what the reality of the audition process would be. There is nothing but a wall of mirrors upstage and a white line along the front – the chorus line.

In a musical so lacking the spectacle of effects and technicality, it must go right back to basics – back to what every show should really be about – the story. Each character has their own story to tell; why they’re here, how they got there etc. Such focus on the characters to deliver that story means the actors must have every nuance down to perfection. I don’t think I’ve been to a musical where I’ve listened quite so intently and watched individuals quite so closely.

And I’m happy to say that they all deliver. The performance is incredibly polished and shines under the stage lights. I can’t pick out any one performer in particular because that really isn’t the point of ‘A Chorus Line’. They are all equal – there’s no star because the process isn’t looking for a star. Even at the end of the production there is no build up to any one performer. They all come onto the stage in random order in a line singing the iconic ‘One’.

I will, however, pick my show highlight and that has to be the whole of the ‘Montage’ right in the middle of the show – the pace is good and we learn a little about a lot about all the characters in that 20 minutes or so. I particularly enjoyed Part 4 ‘Gimme the Ball’ where the chorus join Richie’s story in a high energy dance sequence and Part 2 – Diana’s song ‘Nothing’ (mostly because that’s a long time favourite of mine).

In contrast, my other show highlight is the much more subdued contemplation sequence, after the director, Zach, asks them ‘If today were the day you had to stop dancing, how would you feel?’ a question that prompts the chorus line to analyse why they put themselves through it all, leading into the song ‘What I Did for Love’.

Something I didn’t realise before writing this was ‘A Chorus Line’ was inspired by tapes of true stories straight from the actual audition rooms of frustrated dancers. Not taken verbatim, of course but used as a jumping board in the lengthy workshop period that followed. Perhaps that’s why there’s such a ‘real’, sometimes quite dark, sense to it.   

This is a musical that strips away all the modern additions to musicals as we know them nowadays, down to the bare bones, until we’re left with ‘the music & the mirror’ almost literally. If you want to see a show that’s genuinely funny with strong character development and some frantic, high energy dance numbers then this is the one for you.

A Chorus Line officially opens on 19th February with previews up until that date. To find out more, or book tickets, please visit the official site

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