A Chorus Line opens at the beginning of a day long audition for eight spots in the chorus of an upcoming Broadway production. It ends at the end of the day with some dreams fulfilled and others crushed.
Orpheus Musical Theatre has a solid reputation. They attract the very best from Ottawa’s pool of community theatre actors, dancers, and singers. Their company of volunteers put their all to ensure high quality direction, dance, and production values. Some of my most glowing reviews have been for their shows (Footloose, The Drowsy Chaperone) and they introduced me to my top musical love (RENT).
So I want to say it’s not Orpheus’ fault that A Chorus Line left me bored and knowing that I’ll have forgotten it in a week. The cast was fine, the singing was fine, the choreography was fine, there’s even a few laughs to go around, but for a proven and loved musical like A Chorus Line, I feel I should have gotten more out of the experience than I did.
Presented without intermission, A Chorus Line is two hours long. The first hour and then some is an extended meet and greet with a cast of seventeen. Punctuated with the occasional dance and forgettable song, members from the cast monologue little anecdotes from their lives about how they came to be the dancers they are.
None of whom have any ‘right now’ story or struggle except the one they all share: they really want the job. There’s no real sense of personality and no caring about any of them on any meaningful level from one to the next. Add a general lack of inter-character conflict to go along with it and you’re left with no immediate narrative to pull you in or keep you in.
Depending on your perspective, there’s effectively no narrative in A Chorus Line or there are seventeen indistinct narratives that don’t go anywhere. You might as well be at a party, eavesdropping on a bunch of strangers who you’ll never see again.
Once the ensemble breaks, two characters are allowed to stand out from the crowd: Cassie (Christa Cullain) and Paul (Jack MacDougall). Cassie gets one of the few dramatic scenes in the show in a two-hander with Zack the choreographer while Paul relates his growing up story in a very long monologue alone on stage.
Later, they all wax poetical about the inescapable inevitability of having to give up the dream one day.
In the end (no spoilers) Zach the choreographer has to make his cuts. Eight make it, the rest unceremoniously don’t. Cassie and Paul were made to stand out earlier so that one can represent each side of that coin. As for the rest, you aren’t really rooting for anybody because you don’t care. Unless you do, in which case you got more out of A Chorus Line than I did.
Ultimately, I know a lot of people do like A Chorus Line. It’s possible that Orpheus didn’t bring the bacon this time enough to to draw me in and make me care, or it’s possible that A Chorus Line, no matter how tight, just ain’t for me. I did like the mirrors though.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think? Are you a fan of A Chorus Line? How did Orpheus do with it? Join the discussion and tell me what you think in the comments below.
A Chorus Line runs until March 13th at Centrepointe Theatre. More info: http://orpheus-theatre.ca/