22
Nov
12

A Chorus Line…the revival replica

A Chorus Line

 

A Chorus Line 

TML Enterprises 

QPAC Lyric Theatre

16th November – 2nd December 2012

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

“A classic Broadway musical for a new generation.”

…but just what is it telling them?

 

For a “timeless musical” (certainly one of the most loved movie musicals of all time), this one sure feels dated. And long. No interval, kids. As the lights came up at the end of the show on opening night in Brisbane, all I could do was sit and think, “Wow. Wow. WOW. THAT’S IT?! WHAT WAS THAT?!” I was in shock! That was the finale? That was the show I grew up singing and dancing to in the living room? That was the song (Nothing) that I sang as my contrasting monologue at auditions for tertiary studies? That was the girl (Cassie) too good for the chorus line? Okay. It’s fair to say that you might have loved this production. In fact, you probs did. It’s probs just me. Is it just me? I know Caroline Hutchinson was there on opening night; perhaps it should be a Mix FM segment after you’ve all seen the show. Because you should see this show. And then let me know what you think.

 

What I think is this: Tim Lawson et al saw the revival production on Broadway and thought we should see it here. But what we are seeing here is not what they saw there. It’s a copy and it’s lost its heart and soul somewhere between New York City and here. Did no one take on the responsibility of breathing new life into Michael Bennett’s original work? Instead of a fresh and vibrant new version, we get a vague, half-arsed homage to a vision that, for a whole new generation is questionable, and to the older ones, those more familiar with it, almost laughable.

 

A Chorus Line is a show about dancers, about heart and soul and blood and guts and sweat and tears. You don’t do it without investing a substantial amount of self. Like any show, you give it your all…and then a little bit more. The last time we saw A Chorus Line was on the Sunshine Coast and the heart and soul that went into that production came across very clearly. Choreographer and Producer, Paul Attow, staged a production in 2004 in Nambour  (I know, right?), something he’d always wanted to do. In fact, putting on A Chorus Line meant so much to him that he mortgaged his house to do so. After 2 successful combined theatre companies’ musicals, the stakes were high, and the production was a hit and most of the performances were as “professional” as we’d seen. As an example, let’s consider Brett Klease’s performance, compared to the monochromatic outbursts from this current Zach (Joshua Horner). Now, let’s get one thing straight. We don’t care what else you’ve done. Sure, a long list of Broadway or West End (alright, or reality TV show) credits could indicate immense talent but I say you’re only as good as the guts you’re willing to give in the show you’re in. Unfortunately, it appears that Horner tried to be as least like Michael Douglas as possible (Douglas made the role famous in the 1985 film), and in complete contrast, comes across as harsh, loud and just plain irritable. Klease, on the other hand (currently performing in Caravan at Noosa Arts Theatre), in 2004, was able to show the many colours, tones and textures that make up the complex man who cast and directs the Broadway show for which 17 hopefuls line up. In the line-up is his past love, Cassie.

 

Most of these current performers seem…un-stretched. I feel like they want to go there but there’s been no one to say, with a sparkle in their eyes, “GO THERE! DO IT! YOU CAN DO IT!” Perhaps they did go there in 4 previous cities in Australia, perhaps not. This production has received mixed reviews and I know singers, actors, and dancers, dance teachers and non-performers have all loved it. But I want to go on those massive journeys with the characters, not just watch them from afar. I want to feel the same way I do when I watch the movie, or the doco, Every Little Step. I mean have you SEEN that doco? It’s amazing, about how the show came together originally, after Michael Bennett sat down with a group of dancers and a couple of bottles of wine one night, and recorded everything they had to say about the industry, their lives, their loves and their tough skins. It’s real. On the other hand, I haven’t been this unaffected by the stories in a live show since David Atkins’ odd production of West Side Story.

 

 

Paul (Ross Hannaford) nearly went there, Diana (Karlee Misipeka) nearly went there and then, with the exception of Will Keith as Greg, we watch cardboard cutouts strutting about (Samantha! I mean Sheila! Really?! Others love her.), that didn’t get anywhere near revealing a full personality, despite the fact that this is the show in which to do so. THIS IS THAT SHOW. We should see more than the iconic poses from each character. We should see more than Cassie and Zach shouting at each other downstage. Geez. What was that? IS IT JUST ME?

 

A Chorus Line

 

Luckily, we saw A1 dancing and enjoyed some top voices. (Well, you know if Maggie can’t get “At the Ballet…” you might as well get up and leave but Nadia Komazec underplayed Maggie beautifully, belted that top note and made that number). Look, some of them were maybe thinking, “God, I hope I get it!” on opening night rather than actually getting it. Apparently there were no previews in Brisbane? Perhaps that would have solved the sound issue for the Lyric Theatre (Paul White, we miss the bigger, bolder, brassier sound from Marvin Hamlisch’s score! Is it a System Sound Associates thing? I heard similar comments about the sound for Carmen. In fact, the best sound I’ve heard in the Lyric Theatre in a while was at Rock of Ages.). God, I hope they’ve learned from that.

 

The problem is not what will the audience like (well, clearly that’s a challenge for the investors, promoters and venues), but will this be the pinnacle of Australian musical theatre at this time? What does excellent currently look like, sound like? This? Really? Just this? And there’s the problem. As far as aspiring musical theatre performers (and their teachers) in Australia can ascertain, the current touring production of A Chorus Line is what excellent looks like, sounds like.

 

The quality of a production ultimately lies with the director and while Baayork Lee is my favourite Connie, and while she has remained faithful to the original production’s look and choreography (as noted, the choreography is executed by all with aplomb), I just don’t think that beyond the dance, she’s done all that she can with it. On the other hand, perhaps she has and, ultimately, that’s the problem with this little revival replica.

 

 

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4 Responses to “A Chorus Line…the revival replica”


  1. 1 Leanne Liesegang
    November 23, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Xanthe, Great review, Saw Chorus Line last Sunday. And I kept thinking why did I actually want to see this show again?? Mmmm thats right those classic songs. I absolutely hated the version of Nothing.
    You are SOOOOOOoooo correct about Joshua Horner.. It was so staged, especially the part when he comes on stage to support Paul after his monologue (which again was nowhere near the sensitivity he should have had) he bored me… And the scene between Cassie and Zach WHAT THE HELL !!!!
    Anyway Dance 7 Singing 6 Acting 1
    Cheers
    Leanne

  2. November 23, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Hey Leanne, great to hear from you! I hope you and your girls are well! While I’ve been at MFAC these last couple of weeks, I’ve heard from students, and dancers (and dance teachers), who are comparatively new to mainstage theatre and musical theatre, about how much they loved this production. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough in it for the more discerning audiences and frankly, I’m surprised that so many are so easily impressed! Nevertheless, I continue to tell people to see the show so they can also form their own opinion. x

  3. 3 Cara
    November 25, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Wow if the show lacked passion. This review certainly didn’t. In fact, perhaps a little too much passion. A frustrated performer perhaps? Were you in the amateur production or is it just a case of “I can do that” – better. Very disappointing to read a review that not only attacks these Performers but is written with so much pent up jealousy. If you really do know a lot about the show, you’ll know that the show came before the film and Michael Douglas is no bench march in which to base a character off. In fact, that is embarrassing to say the least. Amateur productions, adapt choreography, omit lines and “play” with the piece. No disrespect. All of it serves for good entertainment value. But it’s not the piece. It’s kept it’s original direction for a reason. While the actors have clearly been directed within an inch of their monolgues, if you couldn’t see the heart OR the the REASON a character stood the way they did in that line, then perhaps WICKED is more the show for you. Bells and whistles a Chorus Line is not. I am an acting teacher and I’ve told my students to study these performances. Never once have I heard what you have described here. The brittle drone of Sheila – this could so easily be overplayed – watching the facade being stripped away as the actress delivered her lines was great theatre. I’d like to have seen Michael Douglas dance the way Josh Horner danced and the reference to performers ‘not quite getting there’ – well, sometimes it’s not all about breaking down in tears and throwing it on an audience. It’s about the art of suggestion. That’s acting. Sorry Xanthe Coward, stick to reviewing amateur theatre.

  4. November 30, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Oh Cara, I don’t usually respond to such comments but please, for the sake of your impressionable students, see some more theatre, read some more reviews and accept that we all have our own opinions, based on previous experience. I’m glad you enjoyed the show. Thanks for stopping by to say so. x


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