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A Chorus Line Is Not For The Young Of Age

Updated on May 26, 2008

A Chorus Line Is Not For The Young Of Age - Don't Get Me Started!

I came across this review of the current Broadway tour of A Chorus Line and having great affection in my heart for this musical, I just had to write a rebuttal. The original review from the Orange County Register by Paul Hodgins can be accessed through one of the links below. Although I haven't seen the recent Broadway or touring production of the show, I have seen enough of it on shows here and there (Ugh, Mario Lopez on Dancing With The Stars) to realize that this show is not what it once was nor is it for everyone. Then again, it never was for everyone. I know this first hand as I played "Paul" in a production of the show years ago. And while the production I was in was not on Broadway, it had all the original choreography and staging, directed by a member of the Broadway show. A Chorus Line is not for the young of age - Don't Get Me Started!

What people seem to fail to realize is that A Chorus Line was groundbreaking on many levels. Nothing like it had ever been seen before and while I agree that the sensibilities of theatre goers as well as the public at large may not find the stories or the way that they are told in this show as shocking as they were in 1975 when the show first appeared on Broadway, you have to remember that this was a first of its kind. Maybe it didn't need to be or shouldn't have been brought back to Broadway but maybe just maybe it's the people producing the show and the kids in it who get the show the least.

You see, the show was a confessional piece about the chorus dancers that you never got to meet or know their stories. It was meant to show the sacrifice and the humanity of the kids who went into this very difficult field with a lifespan something similar to the common house fly but how it meant everything to them. But you see today we're all so numb to fame (thanks to reality television) that being a dancer in a Broadway show seems so much less to some than getting to eat cockroaches or ants on a television show where you could possibly make money and have your face plastered into oblivion thanks to syndication.

Broadway used to mean something. It was the pinnacle to many people, including this writer. Being a chorus dancer (or a "gypsy" as it's called) was right up there with fame, fortune and success. Even back in its day the show A Chorus Line was misunderstood. You see, it was a show that asked the dancers to tell their stories in a non-acting kind of way, to just be under the pressure of needing the job and a director who asks to know more of his perspective auditioners than whether or not they can pick up the steps. He wants to know their stories. The show isn't about flashy costumes or one fabulous number after another, it's about the stories; stories that were compiled from real life Broadway dancers over a series of sessions and recorded by the playwrights and Michael Bennett then put together masterfully for the stage. Dreams, disappointments, people trying to make their parents notice them and boys who were gay trying to find acceptance in themselves and their work. What a shame that the new version is so "acty" that most of the original message is missed.

Young dancers may hope to get on the show So You Think You Can Dance now instead of Broadway but the stories that motivate them to dance, to strive to be better just may have similarities that existed to the Broadway hopefuls in 1975 that filled the show A Chorus Line. So maybe this production isn't everything it should be, that's the true shame here but it's not that the show hasn't worn well, it's that some of us have become jaded beyond our years (are you listening Mr. Hodgins?). In 1975, it was a different time, it was a time when Broadway wasn't run by corporate offices who only cared about getting Lance Bass in a show so that ticket sales would stay steady. Instead, it was a time when the play was the thing. Call me nostalgic but I do miss those times, ever so.

I decided, halfway through viewing my umpteenth production of "A Chorus Line" Thursday at the Ahmanson Theatre, that there are many reasons not to like this mid-'70s relic, which has aged about as gracefully as the Ford Pinto, avocado-green kitchen appliances and the music of Neil Sedaka. (Read my review.) Herewith is my list of the 19 things I hate about "A Chorus Line." (Why 19? Anybody who's seen the thing will be able to answer that question.)

19. Zach's disembodied Freudian analysis of the auditioning dancers. He's like the Wizard of Oz as a therapist.

18. Mullets.

17. Tearful confessions about rotten childhoods.

16. Streetwise girls with "moxie."

15. Bad working-class New York accents. Dees guys and dos gals really get on my noives.

14. Innocent, tremulous young things from the heartland. To a New Yorker, everyone west of the Hudson is still chewing a hayseed when they get off the Greyhound at Penn Station.

13. Unitards.

12. Gay men vying for the "Nellier than thou" contest.

11. Choreographers who yell out "five-six-seven-eight!" when they're nowhere near the end of the musical phrase.

10. Step-kick lines. For any reason, at any time.

9. Guys who show they're tough by chewing gum, wearing tight wife beaters and looking like a minor member of the Jets.

8. Gay clichés.

7. Bimbo clichés.

6. Slut clichés.

5. Using child abuse as a dramatic catalyst when the story gets draggy.

4. Never knowing a thing about the accursed show they're auditioning for.

3. Using dancers' intimate confessionals as a principal narrative device.

2. Getting the phrase "singular sensation" stuck in my brain for three days.

And the Number One reason I hate "A Chorus Line": "One."

This entry was posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at 3:34 pm and is filed under Theater by Paul Hodgins.


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    • ChaiRachelRuth profile image

      ChaiRachelRuth 8 years ago

      Just came back from seeing Every Little Step, the movie about the restaging of this latest broadway production of A Chorus Line.  I liked this movie better than the original show.

      I definitely agree with you.  This show is NOT for everyone and isn't for the young.  I was way too young when I first saw it on Broadway and didn't appreciate the depth at the time.

    • Opera Ghost profile image

      Opera Ghost 9 years ago

      Oh, I disagree with your statement about Company. For one thing, it isn't pre-1960. But I do agree that old plays that are being revived in community theatres left and right are way past their prime and need to be let go. I mean, re-inventing a show is one thing; but there's only so many productions of South Pacific a person can watch.

      A Chorus Line is great in concept. It isn't my favorite show, but I still love it every once in a while. I definitely think it's still applicable and moving.

    • somelikeitscott profile image

      somelikeitscott 9 years ago from Las Vegas

      Chef Jeff, DO NOT throw your A Chorus Line album out. The show is what it is and it still hold up in the minds and hearts of dancers who were around during that period.

      As far as other shows that didn't age well, try anything in the 1960's. Even the re-tooling/concert version of Company didn't hold up well. I'm sure there are many more.

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 9 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Yet it was a hit in its time, which only goes to show that some theater works have staying power, and others quickly show their age. I still enjoy my LP of the original soundtrack, although my record player (turntable, actually, for the purists out there!) is getting worn.

      Can we think of other shows that came and went and no one remembers them? I can think of a dozen or so.

      So, as we listen to the "Cats" wail us off stage Right, "five, six, seven, eight!"

      Great hub, and I'll probably break that old recording now! Thanks!