A Chorus Line

The Long Center presented a strong version of a great musical that's still worth seeing

Second best to none, son: the cast of A Chorus Line
Second best to none, son: the cast of A Chorus Line (Courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars/The Long Center)

A Chorus Line

Dell Hall at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside
July 24

A Chorus Line is now accepted as a classic of modern musical theatre, despite all the reasons why it shouldn't have worked in the first place. An almost bare stage, virtually no costumes, no star to speak of: It's missing a lot of the reasons why people flock to musicals.

But they do flock to this one, and it's because what the musical does have is heart. It's about 17 dancers competing for eight coveted spots on the chorus line of a musical – not a leading role, just a supporting part that will help them pay their bills for a few more months and keep their careers alive. It's a behind-the-scenes view of what it is to be a professional workaday performer, but more than that, it's about what it is to strive for something almost unattainable, and what happens when the dream becomes increasingly unlikely to pay out.

The Long Center production, in conjunction with Houston company Theatre Under the Stars, hit its mark ably. Martin Harvey played Zach, the director running the audition who begins as a tired, Simon Cowell-esque observer but eventually reveals a sympathetic streak. He leads the dancers through their paces, and after an initial round of cuts, he informs the remaining dancers that he wants to know more than just whether or not they can dance. He wants to know if they could fit in on his chorus line, too. What emerges are the personalities of all 17 dancers, one by one, as we learn their backstories. It's based on the lives of actual dancers from when the initial production was created in the Seventies, but not a whole lot has changed in that time, for better or worse. Dancers and singers still struggle to make a living in show business. Anybody who's been to a cattle call audition themselves might get hit with a few flashbacks, painful or otherwise, from the depressing nature of the game.

With no starring role per se, it's hard to pick standouts from the large cast of equals. The ensemble was strong as an ensemble. In the Long Center/TUTS production, A Chorus Line began with broad and occasionally clumsy strokes, but it eventually moved to a place of genuine storytelling. The strongest moments included Paul (Jordan Fife Hunt) recounting his less-than-prestigious beginnings as a dancer, and Cassie (Jessica Lee Goldyn), the former star, fighting with Zach for the chance to join the ranks once again.

The production has departed the Long Center, but it still deserves mention as a strong presentation of a great musical that is worth seeing when the opportunity arises.

More A Chorus Line
'A Chorus Line'
'A Chorus Line'
Long Center launches its new musical series with a singular sensation

Robert Faires, July 19, 2013

More Austin theatre
Making Room to Play
Making Room to Play
Create Space Austin kicks off the drive to secure more performing venues in the city

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 15, 2016

Exibitionism: Road to Nowhere
Capital T Theatre's Detroit is a destination worth visiting, but you won't want to live there

Robert Faires, Sept. 5, 2014

More Arts Reviews
Hidden Room Theatre's <i>Houdini Speaks to the Living</i>
Hidden Room Theatre's Houdini Speaks to the Living
In this drama featuring Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, a debate on the talking dead springs to dramatic life

Robert Faires, Oct. 28, 2016

The Institution Theater's <i>It Came From Your Brain</i>
The Institution Theater's It Came From Your Brain
This improvised retro sci-fi monster movie may pique your curiosity enough that you’ll want to visit the “drive-in” more than once

Oct. 28, 2016

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
UT Dept. of Theatre & Dance's <i>In the Red and Brown Water</i>
UT Dept. of Theatre & Dance's In the Red and Brown Water
Multiple storytelling modes make Tarell Alvin McCraney's complex play operate as both theatre and ritual

Oct. 14, 2016

Hyde Park Theatre's <i>Lungs</i>
Hyde Park Theatre's Lungs
The company has gathered all the right people for this beautiful, painful, timely tale of a man and a woman in a dying world

Oct. 7, 2016


A Chorus Line, Austin theatre, Theatre Under the Stars, Martin Harvey, Jordan Fife Hunt, Jessica Lee Goldyn

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)