A Chorus Line – Does It Deserve A Leading Role?

a chorus line palladium
Adam Wollerton

I recently had the chance to visit A Chorus Line to try and figure out why a show deemed so amazing was having to come to a close after a cut short run.

Upon entering the auditorium at The London Palladium, housing the new I Can’t Sing – The X Factor Musical in 2014, we were presented with the simplistic set design that comes with A Chorus Line. A date written above the stage, a blacked out stage with a line (to become the chorus line), and several mirrors that would appear and disappear throughout the show – although it is rather awkward when the mirrors come in and suddenly there’s a lack of audience on both sides of the actor on stage…

The lack of set for this show is at no fault to the creative team, although I’m sure there could have been something more to it. The format of the show follows 18 hopefuls as they tell their back stories of how they got into theatre and what their future aspirations are. The simplistic format of the show and the set design set the bar for the show – with such a simple design, the show itself had to be big to fill a space like the London Palladium, but alas, it falls short.

A similar fate befalls the love affair between Zach and Cassie, with only one scene of any kind of intimacy (definitely hard to capture when one is a voiceover from the auditorium) and the audience are suddenly thrown into a situation where they have to believe that Cassie once loved Zach… With no prior hint in the entire show about it, it instantly becomes unbelievable, even if Scarlett Strallen played her best opposite I-Am-Mr-Angry-Man Partridge.

The final scene that pre-empts the iconic show tune ‘What I Did For Love’ also flops. A scene that has the opportunity to make such a statement to a generation fixated on fame and getting into show business is cut short and speedily gives way to the song – which actually demonstrates how vocally sound the cast are. This in turn gave way to the finale which was really a spectacle and showcased what must be the quickest costume change known to the theatrical world.

The questionable singing talent of one particular individual was high too. A version of ‘Tits and Ass’ that ranged from a few flat notes to a big belt… Again rather flat.

Speaking from directorial experience, I believe a flat out revival is not the way forward for bringing these classics back to the stage. Make a statement and give us a new show that audiences feel like they haven’t seem before! Move away from realism and present us with a slightly surreal set built of headshots and CV’s of the actors, blended with a mix of sheet music to form a creative proscenium arch! – why not?! This is the reality of theatre… Piles of CV’s and headshots for one role…

As far as musicals go, A Chorus Line definitely isn’t a favourite, and probably isn’t a show that most people would just go and see in the same they would for Wicked, Hairspray, or even Mamma Mia. The show really needed to sell itself to the critics and the audiences, and while some critics deemed the show amazing, although it is very well choreographed, there is a lot of room to make the show astounding. And it is this missed opportunity that has ultimately led to the show’s decline in ticket sales.

Sorry guys! I really do feel that the cast have been let down by lack of direction and even creation, and maybe the Palladium was just too big a sell for the show at its current standard… Until next time, back in line.

About Adam Wollerton

Adam is a Writer and Director of Off-West End and West End Theatre Productions. He is also the Co-Founder of Curious Tales Theatre Company and is the author of LoveStuck: A New Musical.