[flashvideo filename=rtmp://kera-flash.streamguys.us:80/jwplayer&id=video/think/0907_think_318_artandseek width=470 height=263 displayheight=263 image=wp-content/uploads/2008/10/artandseekvideologo.jpg /]
- Lawson Taitte’s review in The Dallas Morning News
- Mark Lowry’s review in Theater Jones
- Arnold Wayne Jones’ review in the Dallas Voice
The recent film documentary, Every Little Step, chronicles the audition process for the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line — a revival that has now stopped in North Texas, courtesy of the Dallas Summer Musicals. In following those auditions, the film also recounts how the original 1975 musical was created. That’s right. It’s a documentary about the auditions for a show that’s all about auditioning for a show, yet a show that, naturally enough, wasn’t actually created through auditions.
Which is a major reason it’s a landmark show. There had been musicals about backstage life before this. There had been musicals with “out” gay characters as well. And there had been stripped-down musicals concentrating on the inner psychological lives of characters. But as Michael Serrecchia makes clear in this Art&Seek interview for THINK TV, there hadn’t been a musical told through the dancers’ own voices, drawing on the dancers’ own lives.
Serrecchia (below) should know. A North Texas actor, director and the head of the musical theater program at the KD Studio Conservatory, he was one of the original members of A Chorus Line in 1975. He talks here about the backstage life the show drew on, how those orginal rehearsals felt, how the show changed his own life.
A Chorus Line was notable not just for what it said but how it got made. It was the first Broadway show to be developed out of workshops — in this case, out of late-night talk sessions that a group of “gypsy” dancers had started and then invited director-choreography Michael Bennett to sit in. Bennett spent months shaping the resulting material — with composer Marvin Hamlisch, lyricist Ed Kleban and writers James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante (and a little uncredited “sweetening” from Neil Simon). The musical would run for 15 years and would cement Bennett’s status as one of Broadway’s great director-choreographers (along with Bob Fosse, Tommy Tune and Jerome Robbins). It would also cement Bennett’s reputation for cold-hearted calculation. The portrait of “Zach,” the onstage director in A Chorus Line, barely touches on Bennett’s notoriety for manipulation.
A Chorus Line‘s success is ironic because by the time the original run finally ended in 1990, the era of the unsung “gypsy” dancer was also over. No longer is it really possible for dancers to make a living hopping from one Broadway musical to another. There’s not enough consistent work. The Anglo-French invasion musicals of the ’80s and ’90s — which generally had colossal sets, not chorus lines — helped put an end to it. The reign of the director-choreographers was also ending. Only Tommy Tune and Susan Stroman are really left, and Tune, one of the greats, seemingly hasn’t worked on a Broadway (or Broadway-bound) musical in a decade (unless one counts the flop Turn of the Century at the Goodman last year).
So as much as A Chorus Line celebrates — as the show’s dedication famously states — “anyone who has ever danced in a chorus or marched in step, anywhere” — it’s also a high-kicking, soul-baring memento from when the Broadway musical existed as a living industry and not a series of one-off corporate tie-ins or boomer “jukebox” musicals.
That’s why A Chorus Line is one, singular sensation. We’re not likely to see a show like it again.