Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Chorus of Approval as High-Kicking Favourite Bounces Back with a Blast; REVIEW

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Chorus of Approval as High-Kicking Favourite Bounces Back with a Blast; REVIEW

Article excerpt

Byline: HENRY HITCHINGS

A CHORUS LINE

Palladium ****

MORE than 30 years on from its last West End production, A Chorus Line returns with a blast of joie de vivre. It's a generous tribute to theatre's unheralded performers, told through the ins and outs of the audition process as 17 hopefuls compete for eight spots as dancers in a Broadway musical.

Their stories become a mosaic (the book is by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante) and are illuminated in moments of documentary-style intensity as the director, Zach, tests them and probes their personal history. The stage is bare, and before long so are the characters' souls.

We meet scathing diva Sheila, who's brassy and outrageous, along with vulnerable Paul, 4ft 10in dynamo Connie, and passionate Kristine, who can't sing. Others are callow, perky or brash. Finally there's Cassie, Zach's former girlfriend, who is desperate for work after failing in Hollywood.

This is an ensemble piece if ever there was one. Yet it honours the feverish dreams of the theatre world's less treasured individuals, and every character has a turn in the spotlight.

Leigh Zimmerman's Sheila gets a lot of the funniest and sassiest lines, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt aces the big ballad. Scarlett Strallen's Cassie is an intriguing blend of high-kicking exhibitionism and confessional despair, and John Partridge, until recently Christian Clarke in EastEnders, makes a suitably imperious Zach.

Crucial to A Chorus Line's original success was the choreography of Michael Bennett. Bob Avian, who worked on that Broadway production, oversees this revival, in which Bennett's painstaking patterns of movement are faithfully reproduced by Baayork Lee. But while the music sometimes fizzes, Marvin Hamlisch's score is not a truly great one. Still, the rhythm of the show is seductive. …

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