Tony Awards 1976: A Chorus Line

12 Apr

a chorus line

In a way it’s a shame that One became the identifying song for A Chorus Line.   When I was a kid I had the wrong impression of the show–I thought it was a silly gold lamé thing where people got in lines and kicked.   Really, the song is supposed to be generic–the characters are singing about the admiration they wish they could get, despite the fact that they are in a line where everyone moves and sings exactly the same, thus erasing their individuality.

And we really mine into their individuality–the rest of the show are all the characters telling their stories–woven into each other in such a manner that this group gets its own identity that’s far more interesting than the 2 minute piece they get to do in the end.   The other song that people might know is “What I Did For Love”  a big schmaltzy song about the love of dancing.  However, contextually the song is supposed to be schmaltzy–the woman singing this song is not singing what she believes so much as what she tells herself she believes.  She has to think of herself as doing a labor of love to make it all worth it.

The stories are mostly about growing up, which makes sense since most dancers are younger.  They are all desperate to get recognition and to get some stability, and they all have worked very hard.   It’s a montage of how all these people from all these different backgrounds have found themselves in the same situation.   The director delves into all their motivations and has them express their stories in a sort of group therapy that’s funny and touching.

The thing is, he’s not delving to get them to pull out a performance from their very souls–he’s delving to smooth out their edges so they can be a conform group where no individual really sticks out.     And the number at the end, as slick as it is, comes off as so much shallower than the group as we see them develop and let out their feelings.    And yet, that finale is very satisfying–it’s hard to say why.

1976 was a very strong season–many could argue that Chicago should have won.   Chicago has certainly eclipsed A Chorus Line, but A Chorus Line so much hit the moment–if you watch audiences you can hardly hear the finale for all their cheering, that I agree with the Tonys on this one.   Chicago is a great musical, but A Chorus Line really knocked it out of the park.

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