Sometimes there’s nothing better than a bit of musical theatre, and Melbourne certainly loves its musicals. But you better be quick to see A Chorus Line, because it’s only in town for a very limited time at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Exhibition Street.
It’s a revival of the 1975 Broadway musical about a group of young hopefuls auditioning for a place in the chorus of a new musical; not quite art imitating life imitating art, or the old show-within-a-show, but more like a musical version of a behind-the-scenes doco, or even a reality TV show. There’s plenty of singing and dancing, naturally, but not much in the way of love, drama and romance – well, not in the traditional narrative sense.
It is, of course, all about the dancers themselves; their lives, their hopes, dreams and desires. Because of that, it’s all about their performances, and this cast certainly delivers that in abundance. Most of the ensemble have had plenty of experience as ensemble performers before, so it’s great to see such talented individuals given the chance to really shine. For that reason, it’s a little unfair to highlight any of those individuals. But I will.
Take Josh Horner, for example. (I know plenty of people who would, for various reasons…) While he’s not an unknown – especially now he’s a judge on dancing With the Stars – he does a great job as Zach the director holding the audition. He demonstrates the right amount of experience and authority needed for the role – and manages to maintain that when he’s offstage and addressing the hopefuls from the back of the theatre, which he does for most of the show.
Euan Doidge is also great as Paul, the young gay dancer who talks about the pain of his childhood. of course, we’ve had plenty of similar characters and stories on stage and screen since then, but in 1975, portrayals of gay characters like this were rare, and this was groundbreaking.
Other standouts include Leah Lim as Connie, the short Asian girl determined to make it in showbiz, and Debora Krizak as Sheila, the slightly jaded performer just a little older than the rest of them. Anita Louise Combe as Zach’s ex-girlfriend Cassie also delivers a powerful performance, especially during her big solo number, ‘The Music and the Mirror’.
On a slightly more superficial level, Rohan Browne as Greg and James Maxfield as Mike both put in great performances; their physical prowess and male beauty are mesmerising, and they have incredibly magnetic stage presences that sometimes makes it hard to take your eyes off them. Not that I’m complaining. That, and Mazfield’s amazing arse in his very 70’s, very fitted dance pants…
Be warned though, there is no interval in A Chorus Line, and has a running time of around two hours. This obviously proved a problem for the two blonde girls seated to my right on opening night – they kept checking their iPhones throughout the show, maybe waiting for a better offer. they obviously got one; they left about half an hour before the end. Which is a shame really, because they missed two of the biggest and best-known numbers from the show, ‘What I Did For Love’ and the gold-lame wonder of the finale, ‘One’.
The good news is that the Melbourne season has been extended until 11 March 2012, so you still have a chance to get to see A Chorus Line. Best you do…
Oh, and check out some of the Opening Night Party shots.