Following the death of composer Marvin Hamlisch last year, the cast and creative team behind A Chorus Line had a challenge on their hands in order to make the show’s revival a fitting tribute to the man who created its iconic and memorable score.
Directed by one of the show’s original choreographers Bob Avian, the musical, which first opened on Broadway in 1975, portrays the journey of a group of dancers, all auditioning for a place in the chorus line of a Broadway show.
The simplicity of the staging, with only a mirrored backdrop and a generous handful of performers populating the Palladium’s expansive stage, brings the characters to the forefront of the story, revealing the pasts – some traumatic, others humorous – of the singers and dancers at the heart of this frank and authentic tale, which isn’t afraid to lay bare the mental and physical suffering experienced by those in their profession.
EastEnders’ John Partridge takes on the role of Zach, the demanding director tasked with taking the aspiring stars through the rigorous audition process, pointing out their faults and flaws with all the cruel assertion of Simon Cowell but still revealing an element of sensitivity and vulnerability like those in the line of eager hopefuls before him.
Scarlett Strallen, fresh from her Olivier Award nominated performance in Singin’ In The Rain, perfectly captures the vulnerability and desperation of Cassie, who, dominating the stage with the powerful solo dance number The Music And The Mirror, proves that her talents are worth far more than a place in Zach’s chorus line.
Leigh Zimmerman oozes hilarity as the model-like Shelia, prancing and posing more than singing and dancing, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is a gutsy Diana, belting out What I Did For Love with gusto, and Rebecca Herszenhorn humorously celebrates her physical assets to the catchy tune of Dance 10, Looks Three.
Each character is unique with a different story to tell, but when the chosen applicants return to the stage donning their elaborate show costumes for One (Singular Sensation), each personality is unrecognisable under their shiny gold exterior, removing every scrap of individuality from the characters we grew fond of during the earlier moments of the production.
While, by the end of the painstaking auditions, there are only eight stars in Zach’s chorus line, there are a great deal more on stage at the London Palladium throughout the two hours of Avian’s production.