A Chorus Line at the London Palladium
The phenomenally successful A Chorus Line hasn’t been seen on the West End since 1976. Fast-forward to 2013 and things have changed with the show’s arrival at the London Palladium.
The stage is stripped back to minimalist production values: although A Chorus Line self consciously reflects the world of show business, it’s not about the glitz and glamour of Broadway; it explores the struggle and endurance required behind the scenes. Innovative storytelling of down and out, washed-up dancers and their plight won the original musical nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Seventeen anonymous auditioning dancers are thrust out of the shadows into the spotlight. Zach (John Partridge), the dictatorial director, disappears offstage and his commanding voice booms throughout the recesses of the theatre, forcing the dancers to divulge their secrets. The London cast perfectly demonstrate the battle taking place within a performer’s psyche: they squirm, they lie about their ages and when Zach pushes them for answers they show reluctance to divulge their past lives: “Do you wanna know about all the wonderful and exciting things that have happened to me in my life?…Or do you want the truth?”
Characters that begin as mere numbers fill the show with their melancholy, explaining how performing has acted as balm to salve old wounds: “Everyone is beautiful at the ballet”. The audience witness the shattering of the American dream in the cases of Sheila, Cassie and Val. At thirty, Sheila, already world-weary, uses sexuality as a crutch to cope with being past-it; Cassie laments that she has been reduced to a “dancing band aid” instead of a Hollywood starlet; Val sings about the intensive cosmetic procedures she has undergone in order to fit the ideal image in Dance: Ten; Looks: Three. Fittingly, in today’s media climate of delighting in downfall, Cassie proclaims that the obvious progression of showbiz careers only result in “getting fat and going crazy”.
The staging means that the chorus moves together either in discord or perfect symmetry (such as in the luminous finale One). The manipulation of lights and mirrors adds to the sense of a multitude of homogeneous nobodies, at other times it multiplies one cast member into a multifaceted star, the audience reflected back at them, perhaps showing what could have been. An absolutely amazing production.
A Chorus Line is at the London Palladium until 18th January 2014. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.
Watch the official trailer for A Chorus Line here: