By D. A. Blackburn
When “A Chorus Line” debuted in 1975, it was hailed as a revolutionary work. Its revealing look behind the scenes of Broadway, its stark, Spartan staging and its candid discussions about sexuality made it an overnight sensation, and earned the production nine Tony Awards, a Pulitzer and a slew of other accolades. But its latest touring revival, which opened Jan. 13 at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre, proves that some treasures do not appreciate with age.
Though “A Chorus Line” remains an entertaining work and maintains its charm as the quintessential story of overcoming adversity to achieve, the racy dialogue and sexual themes that permeate the show lack the punch today that they once had. Simply put, elements of the show feel very dated. Of course, that’s not to say it hasn’t earned its place in the modern theatrical cannon.
Marvin Hamlisch’s stylish music is still a joy, and the restaging of Michael Bennett and Bob Avian’s energetic choreography by Baayork Lee is every bit as entertaining today as it was in 1975. It is also still an insightful look at the process of casting a show.
Throughout the production’s single act, which plays out as an intense audition for eight chorus roles in a new production, the audience sees a reasonably true-to-life casting call, and witnesses the compromises that casting agents must make. Sadly, in this revival, these sacrifices are evident in the cast, not just the script. While all involved handle the intricate choreography with poise, few make strong showings with the music.
The cast seems plagued by performers falling victim to poor vocal technique. While Hamlisch’s music is familiar (notably, “I Hope I Get It,” “At the Ballet,” and “One”), the cast seems to muddle through his effervescent patter with sloppy diction, weak projection and inadequate breathe support. Even in the show’s most poignant solo moments, no one really shines, making this “A Chorus Line” that can certainly dance, but just can’t hack the music.
‘A Chorus Line’
Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tues.-Sun., through Feb. 1. Tickets: $30-$84. For information: 313-872-1000 or http://www.broadwayindetroit.com