Riverside Theatre, Sydney.
15 January 2022.
It is with much excitement that Darlinghurst Theatre Company (DTC) has chosen to revive A Chorus Line, with internationally acclaimed dancer/choreographer Amy Campbell at the helm, making her directorial debut. After a false start or two (thank you, lockdown), A Chorus Line has finally made it to the stage, as a part of Sydney Festival 2022.
A Chorus Line is one of those shows nearly every aspiring theatre dancer wants to be a part of. It speaks of our struggles, our joys and triumphs, our ups and downs, and the very human need to be seen, heard and tell our story. It has killer dance numbers throughout, and a song or two that most of us have performed to at least once, even if, like Kristine, we can’t sing. It is the cornerstone of dance musicals, in an era when shows that focused around jazz and theatrical dance were ubiquitous on TV and in theatre.
Re-imagined characters, spruced up choreography and a carefully curated selection of scenes made this DTC version a wild ride from start to finish. It was refreshing to experience each character anew, and it was obvious this is not just any musical for this company, hitting home in a very real sense, the grinding experience of the regular audition, to get that one job where we will ‘make it’. The humanity of each character was seen in a new light, the story-telling aspect coming alive and highlighting new areas of their stories. Particularly interesting was the obsessive nature of Zach (Adam Jon Fiorentino) over Cassie’s (Angelique Cassimatis) perceived unique level of talent, putting her on a pedestal, where she just wanted to dance, not carry the burden of another’s expectations. There was an over-arching theme in Zach’s sadistic reminder of the perceived poor worth of the perpetual chorus dancer. He had underlying and unresolved issues, and it was interesting to see them take form throughout, a modernised take on his character, whilst sticking to original script. This is not an easy feat, but Campbell should be applauded for drawing the additional layers out in each, and every character, and the work as a whole.
This was a vocally strong cast, with fairly good dance talent. Considering A Chorus Line centres around dance, although they were a solid cast, working well together, there wasn’t anyone who truly stood out as a brilliant dancer…but that is sort of the point, in a way. Cassimatis was brilliant as Cassie, and she did shine in her solo scene, but apart from that, the lack of strong classical training let down the cast, and was the weak point.
Lighting design (by Peter Rubie) was fantastic and created such a wonderful atmosphere, skillfully weaving scenes together, with hints of original lighting concept with a fresh take on the work. There were a few late moments where spots where not quite on in time, but that may have been related to this showing being a ‘relaxed performance’. The same goes with the mixing; there were times when it was hard to understand the lyrics, or a microphone didn’t quite get switched to a lead in time for the commencement of a line.
The use of added rhythm and percussive movement was a highlight, modernizing this version, whilst continuing to honour the original work. The choreography throughout was fantastic, retaining many of the classic moves, whilst giving the overall work a contemporary twist and adding in some modern floor work, acro, and rhythmic patterns.
DTC’s A Chorus Line is a wonderful, fun and exciting take on a now classic musical. Every dancer who has step foot in an audition room can relate to something about this show, if not even directly to a character, and it has been held dearly in our hearts for decades. Thank you, DTC, for bringing it back with such pizzaz.
By Linda Badger of Dance Informa.