Quick Thoughts on “A Chorus Line” at Clowes Hall

I saw “A Chorus Line” on stage for the very first time last night.  However, I had been a fan of the songs for a long, long time because when I was in high school, almost every girl I knew sang “Kiss Today Goodbye” for her Junior Miss talent and every guy I knew sang “I Can Do That!” for his musical theatre audition piece and…well, more about my high school memories of “A Chorus Line” later. 

In any case, finally seeing the actual show for the first time was a little like meeting Elvis in person or something except that the dancers last night were very much alive.  Many, many strong emotions and images came up for me. 

I am looking forward to writing about the experience in more detail, but it probably won’t be until after the Broadway Across America tour leaves Clowes Hall and Indianapolis, so I wanted to give you a quick heads-up about this show right away and quickly say three, no, six things about it: 

a)       The live show is light-years better than the movie – more engaging, more poignant, more beautiful – because it doesn’t try to force an overall plot on what is a completely satisfying collection of connected short stories.

b)       The dancing is SO MUCH FUN to watch!  Many of the dancers are good singers and storytellers as well.

c)       The lighting design is special, too: it is on the side of the dancers, helping them tell their stories in a bold yet supportive way.

d)       The man who plays Zach, the god-like director, is good-heavens-hot.

e)       There is a lot of good food for thought about how these very specific stories from dancers apply to the rest of us as well.  For example, I know I am not the only non-dancer who has ever asked, “Who am I anyway?  Am I my resume?”

f)        There is also a lot of good food for thought about how differently audiences receive this show now from when it was first produced in the 1970s.  I want to do some more background reading about the show, but wasn’t it first conceived before people started baring their souls on talk shows?  I know it was before we all started sharing the minutiae of our daily lives on Facebook.   Now, when I watch “A Chorus Line” as a middle-aged person in 2010, the show feels iconic rather than ground-breaking, but iconic is equally worth watching.

More later, with links and credits and photos and so on…

Hope Baugh – Indy Theatre Habit

Follow @IndyTheatre on Twitter.com, too.

8 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts on “A Chorus Line” at Clowes Hall”

  1. Now that you’ve seen this, you need to watch the documentary “Every Little Step”. It’s about casting the revival of the show, and it talks about the history of Chorus Line, and how it was developed as a series of monologues taken from recorded interviews with dancers. It’s a fantastic documentary.

  2. Thanks, Rebecca! Actually, they were selling the DVD in the lobby, but I bought the CD of songs instead and made a note to see if my local public library carries “Every Little Step. It does sound interesting!

  3. I first saw A Chorus Line onstage at Beef & Boards 25 years ago (good Lord, has it been that long?).

    I was still a kid, and seeing that show was electrifying for me. If I recall correctly, at least one performer had actually been in the Broadway show (which had either just finished its run or was winding down), and the talent level was phenomenal. That, combined with the nature of the show and the intimacy of the venue, made for one hell of a memorable evening.

    I remember seeing the movie a bit later on cable and being horrified by the result. They had completely misunderstood the appeal of A Chorus Line. Rather than the “collection of short stories” that made the show so different, they kept just a little of the other dancers’ stories and made the movie all about Zach and Cassie, complete with flashbacks. Yikes. Even changed “What I Did For Love” to be about Zach and Cassie’s romance, rather than about the dancers’ love of their art. What the hell, people?

    The only thing I wasn’t crazy about then or now was the decision to make the sole gay dancer (LOL! C’mon, now) a tragic figure. As if homosexuality has to have its origins in trauma and result in misery. But, as with so many things, “it was the times.” Still, as you said, a once-groundbreaking show that has since graduated to being an icon. And it will always hold a special place in my heart.

  4. Ericka, thank you very much for this lovely, thoughtful comment! I really appreciate your taking the time to write and post it.

    I hadn’t thought about the gay character (Paul? I don’t have my Playbill with me to check), but I agree with you.

    Rebecca, I have put the “Every Little Step” DVD on hold for myself at my local public library. Yay!

  5. Hope,

    Here is a little tid bit of information for you. An alumn of Beef & Boards is in the current production of A CHORUS LINE playing at Clowes. I am not sure which role she plays, but her name is Hillary Thompson. A lovely young lady and a real triple threat talent. Hillary was in productions of THOUROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE and THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS recently here at the Beef.

  6. Two books for further reading about “A Chorus Line”

    On the Line – The Creation of A Chorus Line by
    Robert Viagas

    From Amazon.com:
    A Chorus Line, the biggest Broadway hit of its generation, is returning to Times Square in a major fall 2006 revival. The show is based on a remarkable series of taped discussions made in the mid 1970s with some of the top “gypsies” (veteran Broadway dancers), many of whom went on to play characters based on themselves in the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning musical. In many ways, On the Line: The Creation of “A Chorus Line” is a continuation of the show itself. In this collective oral history, the 19 original cast members tell how they got involved with the project, how they labored through the months of workshops that shaped it, and what its success has meant for their lives and careers. They paint intimate and frank portraits of co-creators Michael Bennett, Joseph Papp, Ed Kleban – and each other. Originally published in 1990, the book has been updated to continue telling their stories over the past 16 years. Wayne Cilento (“I Can Do That”) has become a Tony-winning choreographer of shows like Wicked and Aida; Kelly Bishop (“Can the adults smoke?”) has become a TV star; Trish Garland has become a California fitness guru, and so forth.

    and

    What They Did for Love: The Untold Story Behind the Making of “A Chorus Line” by Denny Martin Flinn

  7. Thank you very much, Eddie! And thank you very much, Jim! I always appreciate getting comments from you guys on my blog, but I especially appreciate them this week because I have been (again, grr!) having home computer problems and not been able to write as much myself.

    I _especially_ love that they are such useful and interesting comments. Eddie, I wish I could see “A Chorus Line” again and look for Hillary. Jim, I will look for those books at my public library. They do sound interesting.

    Thank you both for reading. 🙂

  8. An employee of Broadway Across America tweeted yesterday that you can get half-price tickets to “A Chorus Line” in person at Clowes Hall two hours before show time. Man, if I didn’t already have plans for tonight and tomorrow afternoon, I would go to see this show again.

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