The first ever West End revival of ‘A CHORUS LINE’ will soon come to the end of it’s limited run at the world famous London Palladium. And we’d thought we’d flash back and take a last look at the highlights of this great production of a brilliant musical.
Based on true stories, A Chorus Line revolutionised Broadway, becoming the longest running musical in New York theatre history, breaking records, winning nine Tony Awards, seven Drama Desk Awards, the New York Critics’ Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. As well documented in the great documentary ‘EVERY LITTLE STEP’ (Which paired the casting of the NYC revival with the original creation process) the show was created by now legendary creators Michael Bennett, Bob Avian, and Marvin Hamlisch along with the often less credited Nicholas Dante, James Kirkwood, and Edward Kleban. If you haven’t yet sat down with Every Little Step and a glass of wine, do so right this minute!
The show came about after a tape session on January 18th 1974 where dancers recalled their stories in the hope that there may be a show in them. Just over a year later the show opened at the Public Theater and the rest, as they say, is now history, becoming Broadway’s longest running musical, finally closing in New York after 6137 performances.
This London revival boasted that it would cast at least one dancer from open auditions, and it stayed true to its word. Life imitated art in the auditions with the hopefuls facing gruelling, on stage, Broadway style casting, that packed out the stage at the Palladium.
The lucky, and talented, Alice Jane Murray made it through the process and land the part of Lois.
The show was then cast, with Scarlett Strallen, Leigh Zimmerman and Victoria Hamilton Barritt providing incredible turns as Cassie, Sheila and Diana, and a bit of TV casting by John Partridge as Zach… showing us why he spent many years in musical theatre before his TV break, and why he belonged to be up on that stage.
The cast were incredibly strong and earned great reviews, and had theatrical and non-theatrical folk welling up nightly showing us what they do for love!
Scarlett Strallen, who in many eyes was seen to be a young Cassie, brings such life to the role. Her technically flawless dancing (‘popped head’ and all) mixed with a real vulnerability made you root for a Character who can sometimes come across brash. Leigh Zimmermans class oozed off the stage and her skills as a dancer, and actress rightfully went on to win awards. The two stand-outs, though, in this production had to be Gary Wood as Paul and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Diana. As Diana, Victoria gave us a rough and ready girl who’s steel and determination really shines through to show a really well rounded character actress, polished off with an incredibly rich smoky voice and tremendous dance ability. Gary Wood’s Paul was everything for me. The skill to captivate an audience of 2,286 on a nightly basis through a monologue is a much under-noted strength, and nightly Gary proves to audiences (and hopefully Directors, Producers, Casting directors and more) that being an actor who performs in musical theatre in no way means you can’t actually act.
The Olivier Awards lauded the production with nominations, but the show was pipped to the post, but Leigh Zimmerman rightly got the award for best Supporting Actress in a musical (still think it was robbed for Best Revival!). We did get a lovely TV performance giving the ITV hosted awards show a bit of fun and much needed glamour!
Which, to me, emulates this classic Tony Awards performance from the recent(ish) Broadway Revival with Marvin Hamlisch on the roof of the Radio City Music Hall, and the cast performing outside the iconic building in the theatre.
This London revival, in my humble opinion, brought some glamour back to the West End, and provided a slick, sharp triple threat piece of entertainment… and to me…. this production is The One!
A Chorus Line closes on August 31st, and if you haven’t yet seen this definitive revival, rush to the Box Office now, or click here for tickets.