'A Chorus Line' review or 'What I did for looooove!!'

'A Chorus Line', Conceived by Michael Bennett
London Palladium, Monday 25th February 2013
Written for The Ham & High

What a treat to have the heart and soul of Broadway transfer to London! Barring a few brilliant exceptions (go and see 'Matilda' now), London's musical theatre scene has felt threadbare recently. I'm not sure I can hack another juke-box musical. But 'A Chorus Line' is a genuine classic, packed with sass and sparkle.

There's a whiff of The X-Factor to 'A Chorus Line' but with one key difference: it's soulful rather than soul-destroying. The show unfurls on a day of intensive auditions for a Broadway show, during which a group of hopeful dancers are being put through their (whirling, swirling) paces. At the end of the day, just 8 contenders will make it through.

Michael Bennett – who conceived, choreographed and directed the original production in 1975 – based the show around a series of interviews with long-time Broadway performers. The script buzzes with authentic spirit and all the back stories, which emerge via Martin Hamlisch's inventive score, ring true.

There's also a refreshing lack of razzle dazzle here, except for a few brilliant explosions of sparkle. The action unfurls on a near-empty stage, with just a huge mirror lining the back wall. The mirror creates endless reflections, lending the impression of millions of anonymous performers dancing in tandem.

The original choreography (affectionately restored by new director Bob Avian) threads the show together with distinctive and elegant grace. It is not the script but the dancing, which leads us through this story. The musical never stops moving, sliding, tapping and twirling from one scene to the next.

Individual performers burst out of the chorus line for their moment in the spotlight. Scarlett Strallen dazzles in 'The Music and The Mirror', her body bending and twisting with such precise fluidity. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt – all fire and swagger – absolutely nails the show's big ballad, 'What I Did For Love'. The heart of this musical thumps wildly during this rousing and inspiring final number.


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