A Chorus Line is a Broadway musical that opened at the Shubert Theatre July 25, 1975 and closed there April 28, 1990 after 6,137 performances. It held the distinction of being the longest running show on Broadway until it was surpassed by Cats in 1997 and The Phantom of the Opera in 2006. It currently holds the record for the fourth longest-running musical, after Phantom of the Opera, Cats and Les Miserables (in that order).
The musical is based on two taped sessions with Broadway dancers, including eight of the actors/actresses of the original Broadway cast. The show was conceived, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban. The book was assembled by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante (and script-doctored by Neil Simon). It had a successful Off-Broadway run at the Public Theater before opening on Broadway.
A Chorus Line also toured successfully, including a run at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. A Broadway revival is scheduled to open at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on October 5, 2006; tickets go on sale June 18, 2006.
With 19 main characters, the setting is a Broadway theater where young dancers audition for the part in the chorus line of a musical. The show gives a glimpse into the personalities of the performers and the choreographer as they describe the events that have shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers. Highlights include the songs "One," "Nothing," "The Music and the Mirror" and "What I Did For Love."
A Chorus Line received 12 nominations for the Tony Awards in 1975, winning nine: Best Musical, Best Actress (Donna McKechnie), Best Featured Actor (Sammy Williams), Best Featured Actress (Carole Bishop), Best Director (Michael Bennett), Best Musical Book(Dante and Kirkwood), Best Score (Hamlisch and Kleban), Best Lighting design (Tharon Musser) and Best Choreographer (Michael Bennett and Bob Avian). It also won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for drama, one of the few musicals ever to receive this honor.
At an audition for an upcoming Broadway production, a director and a choreography assistant choose 17 dancers. The director tells them he is looking for a strong dancing chorus of four boys and four girls, and he wants to learn more about them. They are then told to talk about themselves.
In "I Hope I Get It," we are watching the beginning of the final phase of a Broadway tryout. A rehearsal piano plays as groups of dancers in rehearsal clothes vanish and reappear. The dancers eventually surge forward into a line, holding their eight-by-ten inch head shots in front of them.
After the director, Zach, informs the dancers that he wants to know more about them, they begin with great reluctance to talk, revealing portions of their life stories. In order to get this job, they must put themselves on the line. While the show uses different characters to move through the audition, the overall pattern of stories progresses chronologically from early life experiences through adulthood to the end of a career.
The first candidate is Bobby, who tries to hide the unhappiness of his childhood by making jokes. With "I Can Do That" Mike recalls his first experience with dance, watching his sister's dance class when he was a pre-schooler. Certain he could do it too, he took her place one day when she refused to go to class – and he stayed the rest of his life. The 17 dancers have misgivings about this strange audition process ("And..."), but since they all need the job, the session continues.
Zach starts to question the girls and becomes angry, since he thinks that the candidates do not take the audition seriously. The girls start to open up and sing "At The Ballet," a poignant tribute to the escape Sheila, Bebe and Maggie found in the beauty of ballet. Sheila's mother married at a young age and her father neither loved nor cared for them. She realises that ballet is a relief from her family life. Bebe adds that she likes ballet as she was not beautiful as a child and everything in ballet seems beautiful. Moreover, Maggie says that she loves ballet because in the ballet someone is always there, unlike the father she has never had.
The next ones are a husband and wife, Kristine and Al. When Kristine speaks, Al finishes her sentences. "Sing!" makes it clear that Kristine is tone deaf, and Zach moves on to Mark, a young dancer guy who is eager to be in Broadway. His stories lead into "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love," a montage sequence in which all of the dancers share memories of their traumatic early teens. Gregory speaks about his homosexuality, and Diana's recollects her horrible high school acting class ("Nothing"). "Dance Ten, Looks Three" follows, with Val's explanation that talent doesn't count for everything with casting directors.
Zach reiterates to Cassie that she's too good for the chorus and shouldn't be there at the audition - she should be out dancing solos. But she hasn't been able to find work and is attempting to "come home" to the chorus and start again. "The Music and the Mirror" tells of Cassie's love of dance and of her need to dance. She is a terrific veteran "gypsy" who has had some notable successes as a soloist.
After Cassie's plea, Zach agrees to allow her to go downstairs and learn the combination with the rest of "the kids." Zach calls Paul back on stage and what follows is a monologue in which the emotionally vulnerable Paul comes to terms with his early career, manhood and sense of self.
Cassie and Zach's complex relationship resurfaces in the first rendition of "One," where Zach and Cassie confront each other and their romantic past - ending with Cassie's rant, "I'll take chorus, if you'll take me!"
Late in the show after Paul falls injured during the tap sequence and is carried off, the director asks the remaining dancers what they will do when they can no longer dance. "What I Did for Love" expresses the emotional drive that keeps these dancers focused, ever hopeful and free of regrets. This number fades into the final elimination process as the final eight dancers are selected: Cassie, Bobby, Diana, Judy, Val, Mike, Mark and Richie.
"One" (reprise/finale) begins with an individual bow for each of the 19 characters, their hodgepodge rehearsal clothes replaced by identical spangled gold costumes. As each dancer joins the group, it is suddenly difficult to distinguish one from the other. Each character who was an individual to the audience is now an anonymous member of an ensemble.
The film adaptation, A Chorus Line, released in 1985 by Columbia Pictures, stars Michael Douglas as the director. Favorably reviewed by Roger Ebert and others, it was nominated for three Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. Adapted for the screen by Arnold Schulman and directed by Richard Attenborough, the film had several changes, including a different ending, a reduction of homosexual elements and an expansion of the role of Cassie and her romance with Zach.
The show is being re-mounted at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater scheduled for an October 5 opening (with previews beginning September 18 after a San Francisco run scheduled for July 23 to September 2), with direction by the show's original co-choreographer, Bob Avian, with the choreography reconstructed by the show's original Connie Wong, Baayork Lee. The cast includes Charlotte d'Amboise as Cassie, Deirdre Goodwin as Sheila, Michael Berresse as Zach, Heather Parcells as Judy, and James T. Lane as Richie.