A Chorus Line

The Festival Theatre. 3 to 28 Jan 2012

A Chorus Line tells the story of 17 individuals who are competing for one of eight roles in a Broadway musical. Unexpectedly however, the audition exposes much more of their personalities than they ever intended on giving; their strengths and weaknesses; their wants and desires; their future and their past, all whilst putting them through their paces as they vie for a place in the final chorus.

The reluctantly told personal stories of the characters give the audience a voyeuristic look into their lives. As the characters candidly expose their disappointments and let downs, we, like big brother, get a reality experience which is not quite as edgy and ground breaking as when the show first opened on Broadway in 1975. The show seems to drag in parts and despite being relevant through pop trends such as ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and the ‘X Factor’, what was once contemporary now just seems conventional.

This production, with restaged direction by Baayork Lee has an outstanding cast of young ‘triple threats’, who each sing, dance and act up a storm on the Festival Theatre stage. This is not the first time Lee has worked on a restaging of the production, having re-created Michael Bennet and Bob Avian’s original choreography in 2006, and this Australian Premiere production is not all that far from the original either, using original set design, costuming, sets and choreography. Even the lighting is original and has merely been adapted and realised; sadly seeming just a little shy of its potential.

The cast is excellent however, and create an entertaining production with very high standards of voice and dance. Whilst all are immensely talented special mention must be given to a few. Joshua Horner as Zach the formidable director showed us why he was cast in the role, always dancing with great strength and a perfect line. South Australian born Debora Krizak gives Sheila the perfect attitude and is a stunning dancer and skilled comic, using attitude, timing and facial expressions to great effect.  Stephanie Grigg plays a gorgeously tall Maggie and steals the number ‘At the Ballet’ when she joins Sheila and Bebe, singing with subtlety and gracefully perfect pitch. Euan Doidge as Paul wraps the audience around his finger in a beautiful spot of acting as he recounts his childhood and coming to terms with his sexuality and Kurt Douglas as Richie bursts onto the stage, dancing with so much energy that the audience cannot help but applaud.

Vocally however, the standout was Anita Louise Combe in the role of Cassie. Combe belts out ‘The Music and the Mirror’ and performs a brave solo dance on an empty stage, working valiantly despite the lighting and choreography which seem to hold the explosive scene back.

Musical Director Paul White skilfully commands the Adelaide Art Orchestra who play wonderfully and never overpower the ensemble voices. Sound was an issue however, and solos were often drowned out by the ensemble’s voices. The company choreography by Lee and her team is tight and well-timed with excellent synchronicity.

In its day this was a musical which broke all of the conventions of regular Broadway shows. It was edgy and challenging, and ran for 15 years, winning nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Though thematically still relevant the show feels a little tired. If you are a fan of A Chorus Line, you will not be disappointed by this production. If, however, you are just expecting to see a big budget, all singing, all dancing musical spectacular the likes of last year’s production of Wicked, then you may be disappointed. This show is as much a play as it is a musical, and with the right expectations, there is a tonne of potential for enjoyment.

Paul Rodda