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Review Roundup: West End's A CHORUS LINE - All the Reviews!


A CHORUS LINE, starring John Partridge, Leigh Zimmerman and Scarlett Strallen, opened at the London Palladium February 19, 2013.

The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical conceived, choreographed and directed by Michael Bennett, features book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and lyrics by Edward Kleban.

The original London production opened at the Drury Lane in 1976 and ran for three years.
This groundbreaking musical, set during an audition for an upcoming Broadway show, shines a light on the hopes, fears and dreams of performers vying for a chance to do what they all know they were born to do. A Chorus Line is an enthralling and emotional metaphor for what drives each of us to achieve our dreams.

This marks the first London revival since the original production.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Michael Coveney of says: Bob Avian and Baayork Lee press all the right buttons and creates all the right shivers, it doesn't have the spark, freshness and killer knock-out punch - or indeed the requisite eeriness - of a Sheffield Crucible revival eight years ago. Marvin Hamlisch's music, which combines lyrical yearning with brutal functionalism and slap-down theatricality, is as brilliant and infectious as ever, Edward Kleban's lyrics articulate the dancers' individual stories of hope and disappointment with sharp lucidity, and the book of James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante manages to suggest urgency in the process while time itself is suspended in rehearsal limbo. It's terribly poignant, of course, that all of these artists have passed on: the visionary Bennett (who died of Aids, aged just 44, ridiculously under-fulfilled), Kleban, Dante, Kirkwood and now Hamlisch; and so have the legendary Theoni V Aldredge (costumes) and Tharon Musser (lighting). This show, arriving on the back of an Australian revival, is their legacy and their memorial. Maybe that's a little bit of the problem.

Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph says: There are some terrific performances. Scarlett Strallen movingly captures the desperation of Cassie, who was once romantically involved with the director, and now longs to be taken back into the ensemble after failing to make it as a star. Her solo performance of the challenging number "The Music and the Mirror" proves both a technical tour de force and deeply touching. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt shines as a feisty Puerto Rican who delivers the big anthem "What I Did for Love" with great power and feeling and Rebecca Herszenhorn finds all the mischievous wit of Edward Kleben's lyrics in "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three", a saucy paean to plastic surgery.

Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail says: A strong cast includes Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as a hard-willed Latina, Leigh Zimmerman as a six-foot vamp, and a slightly shrill Rebecca Herszenhorn as a once flat-chested loser who sorted herself out by buying some curves. After seeing this memorable but challenging show you will certainly never again ignore the high-kickers and smile-pingers of A Chorus Line.

Claire Allfree of Metro says: Their Simon Cowell-style Svengali is Zach (EastEnder's John Partridge), a slippery bully of near God like properties - for much of the audition you don't see him, you just hear his voice barking commands. 'Back to the line! Head up!' What you do see is the distinctly unglamorous desperation to make it in showbiz that wafts off these wannabes like sweat as their numbers are whittled down to an eventual eight.

Libby Purves of The Times says: Michael Bennett's show about show-dancers, in its blank mirrored space, lifts and quickens the dullest heart and triumphantly outlasts its gloomy era. The music (by Marvin Hamlisch) certainly does, but so do its people: Bob Avian, one of the original choreographers, directs; Baayork Lee from the original cast restaged the choreography; lighting and costumes from the original are credited... Dance itself is hymned in Ed Kleban's marvellous lyrics: sigh at the memory of a childhood ballet class. "Up a steep and narrow stairway, to a voice like a metronome. It wasn't paradise, but it was home!". What makes the show shine, though, is empathy. The memories and sorrows of a disparate group melt into universal human experience. Two hours straight, at headlong pace: the beautiful, racehorse effort so shines that the first-night audience, in sheer physical sympathy, rose to its feet.

Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard says: 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. Some are more crowd-pleasing than others. 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.

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