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A Chorus Line is a musical about seventeen Broadwaymarker dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line. The book was authored by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, lyrics were written by Edward Kleban, and music was composed by Marvin Hamlisch.

With nineteen main characters, it is set on the bare stage of a Broadway theatre during an audition for a musical. The show provides a glimpse into the personalities of the performers and the choreographer as they describe the events that have shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers.

The original Broadwaymarker production, directed and choreographed by Buffalo, N.Y. native Michael Bennett, was an unprecedented box office and critical hit, receiving 12 Tony Award nominations and winning nine of them, in addition to the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It ran for 6,137 performances, becoming the longest-running production in Broadway history up to that time. It remains the longest running Broadway musical originally produced in the United States, and the fourth longest-running Broadway show ever. The show has enjoyed many successful productions worldwide and was revived on Broadway in 2006.

Synopsis

At an audition for an upcoming Broadway production, the formidable director Zach and his assistant choreographer Larry put the gypsies through their paces. Every dancer is desperate for work ("I Hope I Get It"). After the first cut, 17 dancers remain. Zach tells them he is looking for a strong dancing chorus of four boys and four girls. He wants to learn more about them, and asks the dancers to introduce themselves. With reluctance, the dancers reveal their pasts. The stories generally progress chronologically from early life experiences through adulthood to the end of a career.

The first candidate, Mike, explains that he is the youngest of 12 children. He recalls his first experience with dance, watching his sister's dance class when he was a pre-schooler ("I Can Do That"). Mike took her place one day when she refused to go to class – and he stayed. Bobby tries to hide the unhappiness of his childhood by making jokes. As he speaks, the other dancers have misgivings about this strange audition process and debate what they should reveal to Zach ("And..."), but since they all need the job, the session continues.

Zach is angered when he feels that the streetwise Sheila is not taking the audition seriously. Opening up, she reveals that her mother married at a young age and her father neither loved nor cared for them. When she was six, she realized that ballet provided relief from her family life. Bebe adds that, as she was not a beautiful child, she was also drawn to ballet, where she could feel beautiful. At the ballet, notes Maggie, someone is always there, unlike the father she has never had ("At the Ballet").

The scatter-brained Kristine is tone-deaf, and her lament that she could never "Sing!" is interrupted by her husband Al finishing her phrases. Mark, the youngest of the dancers, relates his first experiences with pictures of the female anatomy and his first wet dream, while the other dancers share memories of adolescence ("Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love"). Greg speaks about his discovery of his homosexuality, and Diana recollects her horrible high school acting class ("Nothing"). Don remembers his first job at a nightclub, Richie recounts how he nearly became a kindergarten teacher, Judy reflects on her problematic childhood, and the 4'10" Connie laments the problems of being short. Finally, the newly-buxom Val explains that talent alone doesn't count for everything with casting directors, and silicone can really help ("Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" - Original title "Tits and Ass").

The dancers go downstairs to learn a song for the next section of the audition, but Cassie stays onstage to talk to Zach. She is a veteran gypsy who has had some notable successes as a soloist. They have a history together: Zach had cast her in a featured part previously, and they had lived together for several years. Zach tells Cassie that she is too good for the chorus and shouldn't be at this audition. But she hasn't been able to find solo work and is willing to "come home" to the chorus where she can at least express her passion for dance ("The Music and the Mirror"). Zach sends her downstairs to learn the dance combination.

Zach calls Paul on stage, and he emotionally relives his early career in a drag act, coming to terms with his manhood, homosexuality and sense of self. Cassie and Zach's complex relationship resurfaces during a run-through of the number created to showcase an un-named star ("One"). Zach confronts Cassie, feeling that she is "dancing down," and they rehash what went wrong in their relationship and her career. Zach points to the good-but-not-great dancing of the rest of the cast, the gypsies who will probably never get out of the line. Cassie replies, "I'll take chorus, if you'll take me!" During a tap sequence, Paul falls injured and is carried off to the hospital: his audition is over. Zach asks the remaining dancers what they will do when they can no longer dance. Whatever happens, they reply, they will be free of regret ("What I Did For Love"). The final eight dancers are selected: Cassie, Bobby, Diana, Judy, Val, Mike, Mark and Richie.

"One" (reprise/finale) begins with an individual bow for each of the 19 characters, their hodgepodge rehearsal clothes replaced by identical spangled gold costumes. As each dancer joins the group, it is suddenly difficult to distinguish one from the other; ironically, each character who was an individual to the audience seems now to be an anonymous member of an ensemble. However, this initial audience reaction is misleading. As the number builds, what becomes clear is that since we now know these people intimately--and view them dancing here unobstructed by the so-called star of the show--we can never regard them as anonymous chorus line members again.

Musical numbers

  • "I Hope I Get It" – Zach, Paul and Company
  • "I Can Do That" – Mike
  • "And..." – Bobby, Richie, Val and Judy
  • "At the Ballet" – Sheila, Bebe and Maggie
  • "Sing!" – Kristine, Al and Company
  • "Montage Part 1: Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love" – Mark, Connie and Company
  • "Montage Part 2: Nothing" – Diana
  • "Montage Part 3: Mother" – Don, Judy, Maggie and Company
  • "Montage Part 4: Gimme The Ball" – Greg, Richie and Company
  • "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" – Val
  • "The Music and the Mirror" – Cassie
  • "One" – Company
  • "The Tap Combination" – Company
  • "What I Did for Love" – Diana and Company
  • "One" (Reprise) – Company


Characters

  • Zach, the imperious, successful director running the audition
  • Larry, his assistant
The Auditioners:
  • Don Kerr, a married man who once worked in a strip club
  • Maggie Winslow, a sweet woman who had an absent father
  • Mike Costa, an aggressive dancer who learned to tap at an early age
  • Connie Wong, a petite Chinese-American who seems ageless
  • Greg Gardner, a stylish Jewish gay man
  • Cassie, a once successful solo dancer down on her luck, a former lover of Zach's
  • Sheila Bryant, a sexy aging dancer
  • Bobby Mills, her friend who jokes about his upbringing in Buffalo, New Yorkmarker
  • Bebe Benzenheimer, who feels she is not pretty and hides it with humor
  • Judy Turner, a tall, gawky, but funny dancer
  • Richie Walters, an enthusiastic black man who once planned to be a kindergarten teacher
  • Al DeLuca, an Italian-American who takes care of his wife
  • Kristine Urich (DeLuca), his scatter-brained wife who can't sing
  • Val Clark, a foul-mouthed but sexy dancer who has a secret
  • Mark Anthony, a fresh faced dancer who relates tales of his Catholic upbringing
  • Paul San Marco, a Puerto Rican who first worked in a drag show
  • Diana Morales, his friend, another Puerto Rican who had trouble in acting class


Cut dancers:
  • Tricia, who has a brief vocal solo
  • Vicki, who never studied ballet
  • Lois, who dances like a ballerina
  • Roy, who can't get the arms right ("Wrong arms Roy")
  • Butch, who gives attitude in the audition
  • Tom, an all-American jock
  • Frank, who looks at his feet when he dances ("headband")


Production history

The musical was formed from several taped workshop sessions with Broadway dancers, known as "gypsies," including eight who eventually appeared in the original cast. The sessions were originally hosted by dancers Michon Peacock and Tony Stevens. The first taped session occurred at the Nickolaus Exercise Center on January 26, 1974. They hoped that they would form a professional dance company to make workshops for Broadway dancers.

Michael Bennett was invited to join the group primarily as an observer, but quickly took control of the proceedings. In later years, his claim that A Chorus Line had been his brainchild resulted in not only hard feelings but a number of lawsuits as well. During the workshop sessions, random characters would be chosen at the end for the chorus jobs, resulting in genuine surprise among the cast. Subsequent productions, however, have the same set of characters winning the slots.

Original production

A Chorus Line opened off-Broadway at The Public Theatermarker on May 21, 1975. At the time, the Public did not have enough money to finance the production. They borrowed $1.6 million in order to produce the show. The show was directed and co-choreographed (with Bob Avian) by Bennett. The original cast starred Scott Allen, Kelly Bishop, Robert Lupone, Michael Serrecchia, Donna Drake,Wayne Cilento, Ronald Dennis, Baayork Lee, Priscilla Lopez, Donna McKechnie, Thommie Walsh, Nancy Lane, Kay Cole, Ron Kuhlman, Rick Mason, Don Percassi, Renee Baughman, Pamela Blair, Sammy Williams, Clive Clerk, Chuck Cissel, Brandt Edwards, Carolyn Kirsch, Cameron Mason, Michel Stuart, Crissy Wilzak and Trish Garland.

Advance word had created such a demand for tickets that the entire run sold out immediately. Producer Joseph Papp moved the production to Broadwaymarker, and on July 25, 1975 it opened at the Shubert Theatremarker, where it ran for 6,137 performances until April 28, 1990. The production was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning nine: Best Musical, Best Musical Book, Best Score (Hamlisch and Kleban), Best Director, and Best Choreography, Best Actress (McKechnie), Best Featured Actor (Sammy Williams), Best Featured Actress (Bishop) and Best Lighting Design. The show won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, one of the few musicals ever to receive this honor, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play of the season.

In 1976, many of the original cast went on to perform in the Los Angeles production. Open roles were recast and the play was again reviewed as the "New" New York Company which included Ann Reinking, Sandahl Bergman, Christopher Chadman, Justin Ross (who would go on to appear in the film), and Barbara Luna.

When it closed, A Chorus Line was the longest running show in Broadway history until its record was surpassed by Cats in 1997 and then The Phantom of the Opera in 2006. On September 29, 1983, Bennett and 330 A Chorus Line veterans came together to produce a show to celebrate the musical becoming the longest-running show in Broadway history. A Chorus Line generated $277 million USD in revenue and had 6.5 million Broadway attendees. Since its inception, the show's many worldwide productions, both professional and amateur, have been a major source of income for The Public Theater.

By 1991, four of the five original creators had died; Bennett, Kirkwood, and Dante from complications of AIDS-related diseases, and Kleban from cancer.

Subsequent productions

U.S. and international tours were mounted in 1976, including a run at the Pantages Theatremarker in Hollywoodmarker.

A London production opened in the West Endmarker at the Theatre Royal Drury Lanemarker in 1976. It ran for several years. Jane Summerhays and Geraldine Gardner (aka Trudi van Doorn of the Benny Hill Shows), played Sheila in the London production. The production won the Laurence Olivier Award as Best Musical of the Year 1976, the first year in which the awards were presented. Joan Illingworth was also down to the last two to appear.

The Broadway revival opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on October 5, 2006 following a run in San Franciscomarker. The revival closed on August 17, 2008 after 759 performances and 18 previews. It cost $8 million to finance and made back its investment in 19 weeks. The production was directed by Bob Avian, with the choreography reconstructed by Baayork Lee, who had played Connie Wong in the original Broadway production. The opening night cast included Paul McGill, Michael Berresse, Charlotte d'Amboise, Mara Davi, James T. Lane, Heather Parcells, Alisan Porter, Jason Tam and Chryssie Whitehead. On April 15, 2008 Mario Lopez joined the cast as the replacement for Zach.

The production received two Tony Award nominations in 2007 for Featured Role (Charlotte d'Amboise) and Revival (Musical). The original contract for A Chorus Line provided for sharing the revenue from the show with the directors and dancers that had attended the original workshop sessions. However, the contract did not specify revenue when the musical was revived in 2006. In February 2008, an agreement was reached with the dancers and Michael Bennett's estate.

A 2008 U.S. touring production opened on May 4, 2008 at the Denver Center for the Performing Artsmarker and is expected to tour through June 2009. This production featured Michael Gruber as Zach and Nikki Snelson as Cassie.

An unsuccessful film adaptation was released in 1985. As Kelly Bishop, the original Sheila, later noted, "it was appalling when director Richard Attenborough went on a talk show and said 'this is a story about kids trying to break into show business.' I almost tossed my TV out the window; I mean what an IDIOT! It's about veteran dancers looking for one last job before it's too late for them to dance anymore. No wonder the film sucked!"

Awards & Nominations

Tony Awards

A Chorus Line was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 1976 and won 9.

Won


Other nominations


Revival Nominations

A Chorus Line's revival in 2007 was nominated for 2 Tony Awards, winning none.



Other Awards

All other awards A Chorus Line was nomniated for, were won.

  • 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
  • 1975 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical
  • 1976 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical
  • 1976 Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Choerography
  • 1976 Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Lighting Design
  • 1976 Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Book of a Musical
  • 1976 Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Direction
  • 1976 Special Theatre World Award (Given to every member of the creative staff and original cast)
  • 1976 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical/Book (Joseph Papp, James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante)
  • 1976 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music and Lyrics (Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban)
  • 1976 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical (Kelly Bishop, Donna McKetchie)
  • 1976 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography (Michael Bennett, Bob Avian)
  • 1976 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical (Michael Bennett)
  • 1976 Olivier Award for Best Musical
  • 1976 Special Obie Award (Given to the creators and selected cast members)
  • 1976 Obie Award for Best Actress
  • 1976 Obie Award for Best Actor
  • 1977 Evening Standard Award for Best Musical
  • 1978 Gold Record Award from Columbia Records
  • 1984 Special Tony Award (In honor of becoming Broadway's longest-running musical)


Other media

In 1990, original cast members Baayork Lee and Thommie Walsh collaborated with Robert Viagas on the book On the Line: The Creation of A Chorus Line, which chronicles the musical's origins and evolution and includes interviews with the entire original cast.

In 1990, Visa launched a marketing campaign around A Chorus Line as it was touring the United States. The promotions included television commercials featuring the musical and the right to say that tickets for the show could be charged only on Visa cards. Visa paid $500,000 for the promotion.

Also in 1990, much of the original cast reunited to perform selections from the musical as well as talk about it on the talk show Donahue. This performance was given to benefit the final run of the show as it was about to close on Broadway at the time. The highlight of the appearance was the emotionally-charged performance of the show-stopper "At The Ballet" as performed by Kay Cole, Nancy Lane and Kelly Bishop which brought several cast members and the studio audience to tears

Michael Bennett and Ed Kleban are portrayed in the 2001 musical A Class Act, a partly fictionalized account of Kleban's life using some of the lyricist's unpublished songs.

James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo produced and directed a documentary film about the musical called Every Little Step, which includes footage of Michael Bennett and interviews with Marvin Hamlisch, Bob Avian, former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, and original cast members Donna McKechnie and Baayork Lee. The film includes some of the audiotapes made at the early workshop sessions and shows behind-the-scenes footage of the audition, rehearsals, and performances of both the original 1975 production and the 2006 Broadway revival. Production of the documentary began in 2005 when 3,000 hopefuls arrived on the first day of auditions for the revival. The film made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker in September 2008 and was released as Broadway Broadway in Japan the following month. The documentary opened in limited release in the US in April 2009.

Notes

  1. Synopsis adapted from "Michael Bennett's A Chorus Line".
  2. McKay, William. "Michael Bennett's A Chorus Line". Musicals101.com. 1998. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  3. [1] Lortel listing, A Chorus Line, Public Theater, 1975
  4. Barnes, Clive. "A Chorus Line. The New York Times. May 22, 1975
  5. "What They Did for Love." American Theatre. February 2007, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p15-16, 2p.
  6. Rothstein, Mervyn. "After 15 Years (15!), 'A Chorus Line' Ends". The New York Times. April 30 1990
  7. Corliss, Richard. "The Show Must Go Under". TIME. June 21, 2005. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  8. "A Sensation's Final Bow". TIME. March 5, 1990. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  9. A Chorus Line on Broadway - Official Website. Achorusline.com. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  10. BroadwayWorld listing
  11. Really Useful biography
  12. BWW News Desk. "A Chorus Lins Ends Run Tonight, August 17". Broadwayworld, August 17, 2008.
  13. BWW News Desk. "A Chorus Line Announces Complete 2006 Cast", BroadwayWorld.com, April 26, 2006, accessed August 14, 2008.
  14. BWW News Desk. "Mario Lopez Joins A Chorus Line on April 15", BroadwayWorld.com, March 4, 2008. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  15. "TonyAwards.com - The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards - Official Website by IBM", TonyAwards.com. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  16. Robertson, Campbell. "Those First in Chorus Line Gain a Continuing Stake", New York Times, February 2, 2008
  17. Hetrick, Adam. "National Tour of A Chorus Line Officially Opens in Denver May 9", playbill.com, May 9, 2008, accessed August 18, 208
  18. McManus, John, "Visa joins with Chorus Line," Advertising Age, September 17, 1990, Vol. 61 Issue 38, p. 4
  19. The Japan Times, October 17, 2008
  20. Playbill.com, January 27, 2009


References

  • Long, Robert Emmet, Broadway, the Golden Years. Continuum International Publishing Group 2001. ISBN 0-826-41883-X
  • Flinn, Denny Martin, What They Did for Love: The Untold Story Behind the Making of A Chorus Line. Bantam 1989 ISBN 0-553-34593-1
  • Hamlisch, Marvin, The Way I Was. Scribner 1982. ISBN 0-684-19327-2
  • Kelly, Kevin, One Singular Sensation: The Michael Bennett Story. New York: Doubleday 1990. ISBN 0-385-26125-X
  • Mandelbaum, Ken, A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett. St. Martins Press 1990. ISBN 0-312-03061-4
  • McKechnie, Donna and Lawrence, Greg, Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life. Simon & Schuster 2006. ISBN 0-743-25520-8
  • Stevens, Gary, The Longest Line: Broadway's Most Singular Sensation: A Chorus Line. Applause Books 2000. ISBN 1-557-83221-8
  • Viagas, Robert; Lee, Baayork; and Walsh, Thommie, On the Line: The Creation of A Chorus Line. New York: William Morrow & Company 1990. ISBN 0-688-08429-X


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