Review: A Chorus Line. Curve Leicester

Photos credit. A Chorus Line. Mark Brenner

To say that Curve’s production of A Chorus Line is just ‘One Singular Sensation’ is numerically wrong and definitely reductive. As a fabulously redefined stage production of a Broadway and International musical theatre classic, this Made at Curve staging and presentation has brought together much more than one solitary singular sensation. It is plurally sensational: namely everything from the stellar cast to the unique direction of Nikolai Foster, incredible stage design by Grace Smart and the stunning choreography by Ellen Kane. Then there’s the fabulous sound design by Tom Marshall and the wow wow wow lighting design of Howard Hudson. Oh boy, that phenomenal lighting design by Howard Hudson! ‘One moment in his presence and you can forget the rest, for this guy is second best to none, son.’

But then, returning to the original argument, if we consider the number one and its other broader interpretation as a symbol of unity then this show embraces that notion of being joined together not only in the dancers’ stories unfolding on stage but that all important human and, very often emotional, warm mutual invisible but palpable embrace of audience and theatre creatives backed up by everyone working backstage and FOH at Curve. Without that, where would we be? And this production demonstrates that love and unity in spades.

The main cast is comprised of the brilliant triple threat talents of Emily Barnett-Salter (Shelia Bryant), Ronan Burns (Bobby Mills), Adam Cooper (Zach), Bradley Delarosbel (Gregory Gardener), Carly Mercedes Dyer (Cassie), Lizzy-Rose Esin-Kelly (Diana Morales), Andre Fabien Francis (Ritchie Walters), Beth Hinton-Lever (Bebe Benzenheimer), Joshua Lay (Al Deluca), Kanako Nakano (Judy Turner), Jamie O’Leary (Mark Anthony), Tom Partridge (Don Kerr), Rachel Jayne Picar (Connie Wong), Redmand Rance (Mike Costa), Ainsley Hall Ricketts (Paul San Marco), Chloe Saunders (Val Clarke), Charlotte Scott (Maggie Winslow), Taylor Walker (Larry, Zach’s assistant), Eamonn Cox (swing), Hollie Smith-Nelson (swing) and Marina Tavolieri (swing). In this evening’s performance the ‘young ensemble’ are played by team Hamlisch.

For what has always been considered an empty stage show with some mirrors and a white line running the length the stage, this spectacular Curve production uses the full width of its massive main house stage and even expands into the wings and part of the auditoria. This production of A Chorus Line also takes advantage of the height of the stage by bringing in and down banks of lighting used to incredible creative effect. The musically superb band under musical director Tamara Saringer are hidden on stage for most of the show and like in Curve’s previous Christmas show, West Side Story, they are briefly revealed to audience during one of the numbers.

Under Nikolai Foster’s bold vision and direction and Ellen Kane’s inventive and original choreography this dazzling production takes (and keeps to some degree) the idea of the ‘Broadway gypsy dancers’ coming forward from their straight line up to tell and sing their anecdotal stories and then splinters and reconstitutes itself in all kinds of directions. So now, that theatrical iconography of A Chorus Line is reinvented to create a whole, brand new, and exciting way of experiencing the show. Many of the recognisable numbers such as ‘I Hope I Get It’, ‘At The Ballet’ and ‘What I Did For Love’ get instant rounds of applause for their performances and stage presentation. The finale blows the roof off the theatre in ways that will make your jaw drop and your eyes well up with tears of appreciation for the genius of theatre craft both of song and dance and gobsmacking technical chutzpah. Curve have a huge Christmas hit on their main stage and you don’t have to travel to Broadway to see it.

A Chorus Line was developed around 1975 from US show dancers’ own stories of difficult childhoods, their struggles to make it in show biz, obsessions with dance, coming to terms with their sexuality, alcoholic parents, the pleasures and humiliations that greeted them as they tried to realise their dreams of finding work in a tough and beleaguered mid-seventies’ Broadway and more. Also, A Chorus Line was the first Broadway musical to deal matter-of-factly with homosexuality. This is seen and heard in a few dancer revelations tonight but none so poignantly as delivered by Ainsley Hall Ricketts as Paul San Marco. You can’t hear a pin drop during Hall Ricketts’ tremendously moving monologue.

This new vision of Curve’s A Chorus Line has brought in fresh ways on concentrating on the actor’s anxieties and autobiographical stories by filming them up close and live so that we see their faces enlarged on the back of the stage. This clever camera led idea, used economically and person specifically, has the effect of visually illustrating to us the grilling of the dancers and the exposure of their inner selves as either confident, or otherwise, in tense dance audition situations. Sometimes this also leads to hilarious confessions blurted out in desperation.

In a show, that definitely deserves a re-visit or two in order to fully take in the myriad of things happening on the stage, there are some stand -out performances from the stunningly talented cast. They are all so engagingly and energetically expressive in their acting and dance work, it’s a hard job to single anybody out. All the actor’s characters and pairings come across as very well drawn and authentically performed. However, the stand-outs, for us, are Carly Mercedes Dyer as Cassie, Beth Hinton-Lever as Bebe Benzenheimer, Adam Cooper as Zach, Kanako Nakano as Judy Turner, Emily Barnett-Salter as Sheila Bryant, Lizzie-Rose Esin-Kelly as Diana Morales, Ronan Burns as Bobbie Mills, Charlotte Scott as Maggie and Chloe Saunders as Val Clarke.

Edd Lindley’s costume designs are an innovative nod to the 1970s and yet current. His designs have deliberately moved away from the familiar A Chorus Line parade of leotards and leggings and leg warmers.

The original 1975 game-changing production of A Chorus Line was conceived, choreographed and directed by Michael Bennett. The show book was by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and co-choreographed by Bob Avian. If they could see this Curve production here in the cultural heart of Leicester their collective creative hearts would burst with joy. It’s totally absorbing and the audience leave the theatre tonight exhilarated after giving the production a thoroughly well-deserved full house, everybody standing – standing ovation. They’ll be singing and dancing all the way home. Well, we were!

“Love’s what we’ll remember. Kiss today goodbye and point me t’ward tomorrow…”

A Chorus Line runs at Curve Leicester until Friday 31st December.

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