Theatre review: A Chorus Line at the London Palladium

A Chorus Line at the London Palladium. Picture: Manuel Harlan

A Chorus Line at the London Palladium. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

A Chorus Line is a truly original show with plenty of heart – and almost an anti-musical

A Chorus Line at the London Palladium. Picture: Manuel Harlan

A Chorus Line at the London Palladium. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

It’s strange enjoying the missteps and mistakes of dancers in a West End musical; in A Chorus Line, it’s all part of the fun.

There’s no plot, either, in the traditional sense. Instead, a group of dancers audition for a part in the chorus line of an unnamed Broadway musical.

True to the 1975 original, the set is almost non-existent, being only a white line that bisects the stage left to right – a guide for the dancers in rehearsal – and rotating mirrors that occasionally wheel into life.

The real interest lies in the storytelling: created by director-choreographer Michael Bennett in a series of workshops, the dialogue and songs are based on real-life interviews with dancers who were rolling with the punches on 1970s Broadway.

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A Chorus Line is, in that sense, a rare example of a post-modern musical; instead of perfectly flawed individuals who live happily ever-after, our heroes are plain-looking, insecure, and full of doubt. You might even call it an ‘anti-musical’.

Bob Avian, who co-choreographed the original, returns as director, and successfully brings out the dancers’ endearing eccentricities, hopefulness and desperation. He’s supported by a highly talented company, who have been superbly cast. The stories feel slightly dated, however, and what once offered a searingly honest portrait of contemporary American life – no doubt the reason for its initial success – now strikes a nostalgic note.

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Marvin’s Hamlisch’s score is, in the flesh, a little underwhelming, although the songs are delivered with guts and panache. Scarlett Strallen is outstanding as the washed-up Cassie, whose solo dance routine is nothing short of breathtaking.

This is a night defined by moments of great poignancy and technical brilliance, but without the razzmatazz you’d expect from a traditional musical. At two hours without an interval, A Chorus Line might test the patience of the thrill-seekers.

But those looking for a truly original show with plenty of heart, will get a (leg) kick out of seeing this on the big stage again.

Tickets: 0844 412 2957.

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