The brilliance and boldness of A Chorus Line lit up the stage at Marina Bay Sands last month.
By Theresa Tan
A 1975 Broadway classic that has won hearts across the world for decades, A Chorus Line played just one singular, sensational month at Marina Bay Sands Theatre.
For those used to elephants thundering down the stairs and witches flying through the air, A Chorus Line might have seemed a little “subdued”. What it “lacked” in terms of visual spectacle, it made up for in intelligent writing: A Chorus Line won a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for Drama. In other words, it wasn’t a show you could bring your 8-year-old to.
A Chorus Line tells the stories of 17 dancers vying for eight spots in a show. As the director, Zach, auditions them, he demands they reveal something about themselves. With some fear and reluctance, they begin to tell their stories one by one.
The revelations range from the hilarious to the tragic. Diana sings the funny-sad “Nothing”, about how, in drama class, she could not get into the emotions her teacher commanded. Sheila, a striking but aging dancer, reveals her unhappy childhood with her emotionally-distant father, and how she was only happy “At The Ballet”. Mike sings “I Can Do That”, talking about how, as a little boy, he would follow his sister to ballet class and that’s how he discovered his talent. And then, there is Val, whose frank and blush-inducing “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” reveals the tough world of professional dance, where even if a girl has immense talent, she doesn’t get any work unless her bust-size is noticeable.
The outstanding thing about these stories is that they are all true. Original director Michael Bennett set a precedent for theater when he originated this process: the show began as a series of recorded workshops, and many of the original cast essentially played themselves and told their personal life stories. Among these were Kelly Bishop, who played Sheila Bryant went on to become a Hollywood actress and Robert LuPone, the original Zach, who still acts on television and today is the Artistic Director of MCC Theater in New York City.
The Australian traveling cast did more than does justice to the show. Directed and choreographed by Baayork Lee, whose material in the original 1974 recordings birthed the “Connie Lee” character, and who was a lifelong collaborator of Bennett’s, this version of A Chorus Line was possibly the closest thing us Singaporeans ever got to the original spirit and heart of the show.
Coming Soon: Annie
Here’s a 1977 Broadway classic you can bring your 8-year-old to: the heartwarming Annie (also brought in by BASE Entertainment which handled A Chorus Line) opens July 10 at Marina Bay Sands Theatre, boasting a UK cast led by TV personality Su Pollard. Tickets on sale now at www.sistic.com.sg