Not in many years has a West End musical put on as much publicity as A Chorus Line did last year in preparation for this week’s opening. Recent West End transfer Loserville came close and Broadway’s The Book of Mormon is currently taking over London’s billboards and underground posters, but A Chorus Line did something unique; advertising their open auditions in local newspapers, making the leap from the performance on stage, to the reality of today. Many say it was just a publicity stunt, and perhaps it was, but the buzz that followed and consequently drew audiences to The London Palladium can only reflect the campaign’s success.
My personal anticipation was high having seen Bob Avian’s revival of A Chorus Line on Broadway in 2008. Having Avian and original cast member Baayork Lee collaborate once more on bringing the Broadway revival to the West End left me with high expectations of what to expect…and I was not disappointed.
A Chorus Line has one simple concept: The Broadway Audition. Within this however, we delve into the characters’ personal stories. Back-stories and subtext evolves and by the end of the evening, the audience cannot help but in someway sympathise with all these ‘kids’.
The first thing that struck me watching this West End revival cast is their unwavering energy throughout. Whether they are standing in their places on the single white line on an otherwise bare stage, sharing their personal story, or pushing through a long dance number, the energy is apparent and worthy of high praise. The dance numbers, restaged by Baayork Lee from Michael Bennet and Bob Avian’s original choreography, are fast paced, slick and above all exciting. This show really is a dancer’s dream.
Saying this however, there are some incredibly tender, moving moments throughout. One in particular is Gary Wood, who plays the tortured soul of Paul with great sensitivity and gravitas. Other stand out performances came from Leigh Zimmerman as chorus-girl veteran Sheila, full of dry wit and wry comments, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt whose feisty Diana shows both strength and compassion before leading the company into a beautiful rendition of the song ‘What I Did For Love’.
Simmering throughout, and not played out fully until close to the finale is the underlying tension between Broadway director Zach, played by John Partridge, and Scarlett Strallen’s Cassie, an old flame who has returned to Broadway amidst the disappointment of a failed Hollywood career. Spending the majority of the show as a voice over a microphone from high in the Gods, Partridge is not to be underestimated. When on stage he attacks the role superbly and commands the auditioning hopefuls with ease, as every leading man should. An accomplished dancer, his strength and presence make him wonderful to watch. Strallen shows Cassie’s vulnerable side well, particularly as she confesses to Zach her need for a job. Her solo ‘Music and the Mirror’ shows strength with a hint of desperation as Cassie opens up her soul to Zach.
Finishing with the spectacle that is ‘One’, A Chorus Line is a wonderful glimpse into the world of Musical Theatre. I’m sure the cast will go from strength to strength with this already polished piece of theatre. A must-see for anyone with a passion for the theatre, and indeed for anyone who has ever thrown their whole being into their choice of career. Full of sacrifice, heartache, triumph and love, A Chorus Line deserves all the praise I hope it will get.
Review of A Chorus Line at the London Palladium by Natasha Wynn
Wednesday 20th February 2013