Review: A Chorus Line
Our Culture Editor thinks this show is definitely not one to miss.
The Musical Theatre Society has returned to the Bloomsbury Theatre in a breathtakingly glorious fashion, showcasing the very finest musical talent that our university students have to offer! Returning for its term two production of Marvin Hamlisch’s ‘A Chorus Line’, the cast, under the direction of Christopher Earley, reminded us in triumphant splendour why thiis musical is widely considered to be Broadway’s greatest and most original.
A musical based at a 1975 audition for chorus line dancers, the story takes us into the world of brutally ruthless Broadway auditions. Seventeen talented dancers battle for the approval of the perfectionist Zach, who will choose just four men and four women for his chorus line. In a somewhat unconventional audition process, the auditionees are not only tested by grueling dance routines, but are asked to tell their life stories and explain how they got into dancing, Whether to overcome confidence issues or identity crises or to escape tragic childhoods and family lives, each dancer has a moving reason for wanting to dance. Realising they have put everything into becoming successful, the harsh reality of heartbreak and a life without dance takes us beyond the mask of professionalism, and into the very hearts of these performers.
Will Otterburn’s set design was simple but effective. The line of mirrors at the back of the stage was complimented by even simpler lighting to really give a sense of a stripped back and empty theatre, ready to welcome the dancers into an audition setting. The exposed stage left the characters with nowhere to hide, forcing their stories to be told and their dancing to be scrutinized.
Hamlisch’s score is deceptively difficult, yet the change in pacing and rhythm was handled rather wonderfully by both the cast and Luke Purwar’s band. The show is bursting with songs that perfectly suit its imaginative choreography, but there is honesty and beauty in the slower numbers as well.
Being a musical with dance at its core, overall Maria Cross’s choreography was both exciting and entertaining, incorporating a whole spectrum of colourful dance styles, including ballet, tap and jazz. Much of the unquestionably talented cast performed these dances effortlessly, however, the divide between the male and female performers became apparent in the more intricate movements, with the girls having that bit more of polished edge.
It was the girls’ performances overall in fact, that really impress and make this show what it is. Wonderful comic performances from Rebecca Harrison (Val) during ‘Dance: Ten; Looks: Three’, and Julia Mantell (Sheila), had the audience in stitches and fantastically effortless vocal performances from both Mantell and Becky Pinnington (Diana) left us in complete awe of their talents. Special mention must also be given to the fact that Julia, originally cast as Judy, learned the role of feisty and flirtatious ageing dancer Sheila, in only four days, in order to replace the injured Hannah Barker, with choreographer Maria Cross stepping in to play Judy. The last minute change was in no way noticeable, making Mantell’s standout performance all the more impressive.
Of the men in the cast, Shafeeq Shajahan gave a moving performance as Paul, a shy homosexual Puerto Rican who dropped out of school and suffered a troubled childhood, finding solace and comfort in his dancing.
This thoroughly talented cast do justice to one of Broadway’s best musicals. It is only fitting, therefore, that each cast member – in keeping with the original production – is allowed their own moment of appreciation with an individual bow before the reprise of ‘One’. Deserving of every clap and cheer, we say it a lot but this show is definitely not one to be missed!
Musical Theatre Society’s ‘A Chorus Line’ is being performed on 1st and 2nd March at the Bloomsbury Theatre.
Performances start at 7.30pm.
£5 for UCL students / £8 / £10.
Tickets can be bought in person at the Bloomsbury Theatre box office, by phone (02078888822) or online at www.thebloomsbury.com
Photography by Saloni Miglani