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A Chorus Line

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

Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., Aug. 2, 2013

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
www.thelongcenter.org
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.

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