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A Chorus Line: a journey down musical memory lane

Christian Butler

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A Chorus Line is a show no amateur company would ever put on. The cast is too small, the choreography is too demanding, and the characters are the wrong age for am-dram (too old for youth theatre, too young for community theatre). It’s that, and a mercifully forgotten film adaptation, that makes the one-time longest running musical in Broadway history such an unknown entity to young theatre fanatics.

Indeed, the show, about 17 Broadway dancers vying for their place in the chorus line, had more or less died a death until it was revived this year at the London Palladium. Now, the Glee generation can finally see this historic musical, and fans of the original production can see A Chorus Line as they so fondly remember it.

And when I say they’ll see it as they remember it, that’s no exaggeration – the revival is a carbon copy of the original 1975 production. It’s like stepping into a time machine, with every minuscule detail laboriously recreated from the original Broadway production. Indeed, Michael Bennett, the show’s original director and choreographer, is credited in this new production – despite having been dead for 26 years. And although I agree it’s hard to imagine this show without Bennett’s extraordinary flair, it’s ridiculous not to update a single aspect of the Seventies’ production.

An overwhelming sense of nostalgia emanates from this stale revival. What once seemed fresh and modern has become morbidly old-fashioned, leaving newcomers cold and no doubt wondering what all the fuss was about.

Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.

A Chorus Line is playing at the London Palladium. To book, visit their website or call 0844 412 2957.

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