On Christmas Eve, I went with my family to Leicester Curve to see their production of “A Chorus Line”. This musical, set in New York in 1975, focuses on the auditions for the chorus of a Broadway production and the lives and backstories of those auditioning.
The director, Zach (Adam Cooper), puts 17 auditionees through their paces, with the opening number seeing each person attempting to perform a dance, before the show changes pace and allows us to delve into the characters’ personal lives a little more. Some of these moments are particularly effective – a stand out moment for me was a monologue performed by Paul (Ainsley Hall Ricketts) in which he described coming out as gay and realising his ambition to be a drag queen. This speech had the audience hooked, and you could have heard a pin drop.
Not all of the backstories are quite as moving. Some are played more for laughs – although whether they are actually funny is questionable. Some parts of the play seemed to be vulgar for the sake of being vulgar – an entire song about “tits and ass” just felt out of place, failing to hit the same level of comedy as other musicals (such as Avenue Q) have done much better.
Unfortunately, having 17 different characters to explore - plus Zach, who has a backstory that becomes entangled with auditionee Cassie (Carly Mercedes Driver) – means that there is not enough time to cover each character, and some end up being glossed over or feeling under-developed. Also, the show starts to feel quite repetitive as there is no way to move the story on. Instead, we meet a character, they sing a song, then we move on to the next character. There are no moments that seem to tie everything together, no through story, nothing to build suspense.
This also means that there aren’t really any characters that the audience root for. Of course, this seems to be the whole point of the show. This is about people auditioning for the chorus, so it makes sense that there isn’t one main character. But that makes it hard for the audience to care. At the end of the piece, when the cast is revealed, my reaction was “so what?”
On the flip side, the show looked amazing, and the actors cannot be faulted. Each one did a fantastic job, nailing the difficult choreography and bringing huge amounts of energy to the stage. The lighting design was fantastic, and the final musical number looked amazing. I’ve never seen so many lights on a stage before, and the curtain drop at the end gave me goosebumps. A truly amazing end to what was, in my opinion, a fairly average production.
I’m sure there are more messages and themes hidden below the surface. Perhaps the play has more meaning for those involved in the theatre world, that are used to attending auditions and can relate more to the characters in the play. For me, I think the words I would use to describe this one is “not my cup of tea”.
Tom Morley, December 2021