For my birthday my boss bought me two tickets to see 'A Chorus Line' at the London Palladium. I chose to take my mum and you can see how the rest of our weekend went here. We went to the evening show which felt very glamorous. The London Palladium was beautiful, an old style, vintage theatre with lots of character.
When we got there we gave our tickets to the collector and he said 'Oh, the upper circle is closed tonight...' my stomach just dropped. If something is going to go wrong then it will happen to me, always. But that foreboding statement was followed by 'so you've been upgraded' yes! 'To the Royal circle' YES! We were really close to the stage but still raised up enough so that we could see the whole stage. I quite like sitting high because you get the effect of all the actors on stage, especially in a musical where there are often lots of dance routines.
Around halfway through the show I realised that the whole show must be set like this, the whole thing focuses on the audition. I was a bit worried that it would be boring but the songs are so different, some fast-paced, some slower and more emotional, that it really mixed the whole thing up. The only things on stage are the auditionees. They each have a kit bag which they leave at the side of the stage and at some point in the show they have a hat to dance with. The only set change is the back wall of the stage which has rotating sections which show either black wall or mirror, like in a dance studio. There are no costume changes apart from the closing number. I honestly thought that I would be so bored but it was absolutely excellent. Its amazing how a mirror at the back of the stage can really change your whole perspective and shake things up a little bit.
The show is set in 1975 with an audition in for a Broadway show and shows the journey of a group of auditionees, the director (played by John Partridge) and his assistant. After the opening number, 'I Hope I Get It', a number of auditionees are cut, leaving the main characters which we see throughout the show. The director then asks each remaining person to tell him more about themselves, which they do reluctantly through funny, clever and sometimes heartbreaking songs. There are stories about growing up in a broken home, homosexuality and being unable to sing.
|The Auditionees Source|
There is also a personal story between the director, Zach, and one of the auditionees, Cassie, played by Scarlett Strallen.We learn that they used to be in a relationship but they split-up because he was having more of a relationship with his work. When the others go downstairs to learn another song Cassie stays to talk to Zach. Zach is angry with her because he thinks she's better than the chorus line. She sings a very passionate song, 'The Music and The Mirror' which tells all about her struggle in the theatre environment and her life in general.
|Cassie and Zach Source|
Zach calls another auditionee back who was reluctant to tell more about himself, Paul. He gives a very emotional account of his childhood, his homosexuality and his relationship with his parents. He breaks down and Zach comforts him. Later, during a tap sequence, Paul falls and hurts a recently operated on knee. He goes to hospital and the rest of the auditionees realise how precarious their careers are, they could end at any moment. They then sang (my personal favourite) 'What I Did For Love' which talks about how much they've enjoyed their careers and how they wouldn't change their experiences, mostly!
The final eight dancers are selected, four boys and four girls. I was genuinely sad. I had half hoped that we wouldn't see who was picked. Each person had different qualities which made them worthy of being in the chorus line. The main thing which I enjoyed about this musical was how relative the characters were, there would have been at least one person whom you could have related to. I saw many of my traits in a number of different characters and 'A Chorus Line' embraced these.
The closing number 'One' shows the auditionees coming out in identical outfits, they each take an individual bow then start to dance the routine. It is surprising how people, who had once looked and acted so individually, blended together and it was very difficult to tell who was who.
|Leigh Zimmerman as Sheila Source|
I absolutely loved the character of Sheila, played by Leigh Zimmerman. An ageing dancer who acts very provocatively and has some brilliant one-liners but she also has some heartfelt moments like in 'At The Ballet'. Leigh has won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical (which is a bit of a bloody mouthful!). I thought she was excellent.
When we came out we heard some screams from the side of the theatre and there was a group of fans waiting for the actors come out of their dressing rooms for their programmes to get signed. About ten actors signed my programme but it was really awkward because they looked so different in real life, I didn't recognise some of them!!
I would thorougly recommend this show, it has definitely been one of my favourite musicals to date, I've been listening to the soundtrack non-stop. Watch this space for more musical news!