This is a massive and ambitious undertakingEmily Brailsford

Never before has the ADC theatre seen a musical quite like this: this all-singing, all-dancing production boasts an impressive cast of twenty-six actors and displays an incredible range of technical talent. My first impression upon entering the rehearsal room was that this was a massive - and certainly ambitious - undertaking, as the titular chorus line itself was hardly contained by the large rehearsal space, but it soon became clear that the expertise of the cast more than compensates for these practical challenges.

“The investment of the onlookers in the characters and the strength of their subsequent anticipation at this climax will be perhaps the truest test of this student production”

A Chorus Line is somewhat metatheatrical in its dramatization of an audition process: a diverse bunch of hopefuls are auditioning to be part of a Broadway chorus line and are met with the slightly unconventional methods of Zach, the director. He decides against giving them lines (shock!) and instead entreats the group of auditionees to simply tell him about themselves. A big question, an unsettling request - can’t they just read lines? The panic sets in and the narrative unfolds in real-time as each individual responds in ways that - judging from the immensely enjoyable excerpts I witnessed - are comic and moving in equal measure.

Universal traumas (being bullied at school, wishing your boobs would grow, etc.) and more intimate revelations are woven into witty musical dance numbers that are delivered with admirable gusto by the cast. The constantly shifting dynamics of the group are laid bare to the audience as the majority of the cast remain on stage throughout; a staggering display of stamina, it must be said. In essence, the cast are provided with a precious opportunity to sing about what they really love - theatre, singing, dancing - and their emotion is palpable. 

The inclusion of dance workshops and the appointment of a dance captain have been extremely popular methodsEmily Brailsford

An ambitious production such as this undoubtedly presents many challenges. There is no established protagonist, with each character requiring sufficient development to make their time in the spotlight both compelling and convincing. Yet this is also what makes the show so engaging, as the audience are led to foster sympathies for a variety of characters who would otherwise make up just one indistinguishable (chorus) line.

Interestingly, the stories in the production are actually based on those of the real actors who made up the original cast. Director Luke Dell comments that when A Chorus Line was originally performed on Broadway in the 1970s, there was often a very powerful audience reaction to the scene in which the successful auditionees are announced. The investment of the onlookers in the characters and the strength of their subsequent anticipation at this climax will be perhaps the truest test of this student production. The set is simple: a bare stage, adorned only with revolving mirrored panels, concentrates focus on the individuals whose theatrical careers are held delicately in the balance.

“learning elements of jazz, ballet and tap with little prior experience is definitely no mean feat and should be generously celebrated”

Dell explains that there were initially doubts as to whether enough dance talent could be sourced to make such a ‘dance-heavy’ musical effective. It was certainly a valid concern, but one that has been expertly overcome by the inclusion of dance workshops in the rehearsal process, in addition to the appointment of a dance captain (Sophie Foote) to aid the hard-working choreographers (Eliza Mahoney and Jasmine Coomber). Talking to the cast made it clear that this has been an extremely popular method.

Foote, whilst also a member of the cast, has been offering one-on-one sessions with those who miss certain rehearsals or who just want to brush up on certain skills: this demonstrates that the production has maintained an attention to detail and a consideration for the comfort of each performer, in spite of the sheer volume of cast members. The dance workshops which formed the start of the process have also been instrumental, with some cast members learning a completely new range of skills and even being motivated to continue with dance post-production. Learning elements of jazz, ballet and tap with little prior experience is definitely no mean feat and should be generously celebrated. The efforts of musical director Laurence T-Stannard and the use of a live band also greatly contribute to the joyousness of the overall spectacle.


Mountain View

Richard III review

Despite this show essentially constituting a musical about the world of musicals, the cast endearingly insist that it is not ‘offensively musical theatre’: rest assured, there is dialogue interspersed with the songs and dances. An enormous amount of effort has gone into this particular show and it has all the makings of a triumph. Audiences have clearly anticipated this, as the production is actually sold out - unprecedented ticket sales have made A Chorus Line the fastest-selling Michaelmas musical put on by the ADC in the past couple of years. Those who had the forethought to purchase an apparently golden ticket are undeniably in for a treat, whilst those who are left without (and no doubt kicking themselves) have no choice but to queue up on the night for one of the very few day tickets being sold on the door. This, however, I would thoroughly recommend; it is not to be missed.

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