Actors enter every audition with one clear aim: to stand out enough to win the part. But for wannabe chorus members of the big stage musicals, there’s a harder balance to strike. You have to be noticed enough to get the role, but what they’re looking for is a background performer only there to blend in. In the 1975 musical A Chorus Line, something changes. Director Zach (Adam Cooper) asks them to tell their own stories during an audition, and once the cheesy grins are stripped away, out spill stories of abuse, heartbreak and teenage trauma.
When you think of A Chorus Line, chances are you imagine perfectly synchronised high kicks and lots of jazz hands. It’s one of the most demanding shows out there, yet Ellen Kane’s choreography in the new production at the Leicester Curve is innovative in unexpected ways. The group numbers are never overly reliant on synchronisation or symmetry (as a show like this lends itself to) but instead have a layered depth where separate components tessellate with ease. In the solo numbers, elements of street, cheerleading and modern dance are integrated – Paul (Ainsley Hall Ricketts) performs an interpretive dream sequence after injuring himself that is as haunting as it is stunning.
The dance sequences being so relentless, any actor would find this show exposing. The Curve production leans into this idea, with mirrors lining the back of the stage throughout the show (not just for Cassie’s solo number, as they usually do). They give a clear message – if there’s a mistake, we will see it. To further this premise, Nikolai Foster’s production brings in a bold new element, with Zach’s assistant (who for reasons unclear has the only British accent of the production) wielding a massive camera with its feed projected in real time on the backdrop. It’s clear what they’re trying to do with this trick, but after roughly five seconds the impact is lost and it feels gimmicky. For the most part, it’s a distraction that can be ignored, but at certain points it interrupts the flow of the scene.
It’s hard to pick standout performances in a show about a chorus, but the formidable Carly Mercedes Dyer hardly breaks a sweat as she switches from complex dance to belting out in “The Music and the Mirror”. Somewhat surprisingly, though, it is the comedy numbers that really stand out. “Sing”, a duet between Al and his tone-deaf girlfriend Kristine (Katie Lee), is a riot, with Lee displaying her immense dance skill and comic timing all at once. In “Dance Ten, Looks Three” (yes, the “tits and ass” song), Chloe Saunders laces irony into every hair toss and eye roll as she sings about the benefits of cosmetic surgery. As an ensemble, the cast know when to step back and let others shine, yet they’re finely tuned into each other’s actions, slickly moving as a homogenous group and making it all look far too easy.
‘A Chorus Line’ runs at the Leicester Curve until 31 December