A Chorus Line at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre

 

A Chorus Line needs no introduction. Or does it? Despite being one of the most successful musicals of all time it has kept a fairly low profile in the past ten years, popping up only once in a high profile production with the late Adam Faith. That production had nothing much to offer, much unlike the latest incarnation from new director Nikolai Foster at the Sheffield Crucible. If this doesn't revitalise the show for a new generation then nothing will.

 

The plot is thin but that's irrelevant - director Zach is holding auditions to assemble a chorus line and we, the audience, are given a Big Brother style look into the audition room. The simple 'sing the song, do the dance and leave' approach doesn't happen, instead he interrogates them about themselves.. about their lives.. why do they deserve places? It's a journey we take from the dance floor to their hearts, thanks to interviews conducted by original creator Michael Bennett with actual choruses.

 

In this intimate thrust staged auditorium the production breaks the barriers of a traditional proscenium arch one which usually constrains the relationship of actor/audience.. something which is essential to A Chorus Line. With this production you weren't observing the auditions – you were there with them, and especially so in the penultimate number "What I Did For Love" where you want to shout out your own opinion with them.

 

Picking performances of merit is a difficult task, but overall there were three, and they stood out because they were watchable the entire time they were on stage, though Nikolai Foster's cast is so well crafted that no-one is weak. Josephina Gabrielle, fast becoming the new Ruthie Henshall (and ironically says "it would be nice to be a star"), gave Cassie dignity but embarrassment, David Sellings' dance skills and stage presence set him way above the rest and in his monologue, Daniel Crossley gives a moving performance as Paul.

 

One thing that didn't work for me was Zach, the director. He looked the part and acted the part but he was too involved for my liking, onstage far too much in the first act. The Adam Faith production didn't reveal Zach until as late as possible, really building anticipation, but Foster directs Zach to come down to their level too early. It's a small worry though.

 

The biggest star of this show though is Karen Bruce, who doesn't appear but takes the choreography credit. Unsurprisingly her credits include Fame and Footloose, and it shows – the dancing is electric. From the exciting opening number ("I Hope I Get It") with 24 dancers filling the stage like a scene from Cats to the most optimistic finale ever ("One"), Bruce brings fun new ideas and gives them a well earned showdown in Sheffield.

 

Stepping into the theatre is like stepping into the 1970s, everyone looks the part, especially Sebastien Torkia who raises a laugh just from his appearance and standing 'gay'. The lighting team , led by Tim Mitchell, have done a great job whilst a hidden six-man band give the vocals a massively seventies tone.

 

Ben Elton killed the musical. The Sheffield Crucible brought it back.


 

- A Chorus Line runs until January 24th 2004. Tickets are £7.50 - £16.50. To book phone 0114 249 6000.

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Jake is currently studying at Bristol University and hopes to eventually pursue a career in the theatre industry as a writer/director. His favourite writers include American playwright Rebecca Gilman and he's a big supporter of new writing in Britain. In addition to BroadwayWorld, Jake also writes for BBC.co.uk, Whatsonstage.com and Theatremonkey.com.


 

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