Forming part of the 2022 Sydney Festival, A Chorus Line at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta delivers a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a dancer trying to forge a career on Broadway. Set on the stage of a theatre during auditions for a chorus line, the musical centres on the lives of seventeen hopefuls and the events that have shaped their decision to become dancers.
The original production, directed by Michael Bennett, opened in 1975 and continues to be one of the most successful Broadway shows ever made. Aside from it’s incredible musical score, by Marvin Hamlisch, A Chorus Line reinvented musicals by taking the true stories of Broadway dancers – their struggles and fears – and exposed them to the world.
Re-imaging such a well known and beloved production is no small feat, but Director and Choreographer Amy Campbell seems more than equal to the challenge. With a standout cast, each performer manages to hold their own, but it is when the Company converges together that we are gifted with some truly remarkable dancing.
In the first half of the production we are introduced to the dancers as they attempt to impress formidable Director Zac (Adam Jon Fiorentino), who is both intimidating and oddly compassionate at the same time. However, it is the second half where the musical truly finds its feet and it is by far stronger than the first, both in character development and choreography.
We see Cassie (Angelique Cassimatis), who up to this point had been slightly overlooked, take centre stage with ‘The Music And The Mirror’. We learn more about her story, her struggles to find work and her past relationship with Zac. Cassimatis is sensational during this number. By far one of the strongest vocals in the cast, her performance is mesmerising and generated some of the loudest cheers of the night. Determination, passion and resilience is embodied in ever move her body makes and it becomes clear that Cassie is a fighter, that in this world – she has to be.
Another standout performance is by Ethan Ritchie as Paul, who is called back onto the stage to speak with Zac while the others take a break outside. He talks about how he became a dancer, his time performing in drag shows and how he felt he had to hide this from his parents. By the time he tells Zac how his parents found out, the audience was so captivated you could hear a pin drop. So powerful was Ritchie’s performance, the man next to me started crying. That is one of the beautiful things about A Chorus Line – it takes you on a journey where an audience can go from peals of laughter to silent tears in the space of ten minutes.
When Paul takes a fall during a routine and is taken to hospital the tension on stage is heavy. They all realise that an injury can end your career and you can feel the fear emanating from the other dancers. Suddenly the fragile and ephemeral nature of a dancer’s career is highlighted and makes some of the performer’s question – why am I even here?
Without a doubt, the star of the production, is the choreography which practically leaps off the stage. Campbell has done an incredible job and you won’t be disappointed with the amount of flips, lifts, twirls and high kicks. Despite some issues with the sound, some wayward props and a few other small delivery hick-ups, the first performance of A Chorus Line for the Sydney Festival appeared to run fairly smoothly.
By the end of the production the audience had become so invested in these people’s journeys that when the lucky eight are finally chosen for the chorus line you feel genuine disappointment for those sent home. The final dance number is everything you want it to be – glitzy, over the top and utterly fabulous – it’s the perfect balm to the roller-coaster ride of emotions you’ve been on. It would be easy to walk away from A Chorus Line and question why anyone would ever want to become a dancer. But while exposing its harsh realities, the musical also highlights the joy, the passion and the sheer determination that comes with knowing why you were put on this earth. And suddenly you get it. That’s the magic of A Chorus Line.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
A Chorus Line is playing at Parramatta Riverside Theatres in Sydney until 22 January. For more information and to book tickets head to the website.
Reviewer attended on 13 January 2022.
Photo Credit: Robert Catto