Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"A Chorus Line" is not only a valentine to dancers but a salute to the anonymous.
The most publicized musical of the era checked into the Kennedy Center Opera House Thursday night for a two-month stand.
At the root of this remarkably integrated musical is the fact that in this age of the common man so many feel the call but so few can be chosen. We watch 17 dancers vie for eight places in a chorus, but they can stand for all workers who aspire. We live in an ocean of communication, but eithout luck an timing there is the anguished sense of anonymity.
Expressing this highly contemporary ailment, the members of "A Chorus Line" choose their image from the heart of their lives, the musical stage profession, so demanding of discipline, so compounded of chance, so stacked against winning.
"One" sing the petitioners, knowing that this job for the individual, these spots for the group, will be crafted to make a glittery star glitter more. Before we see them in the sparkling costumes of anonymity in front of Robin Wagner's mirrors, we meet them all as individuals.
"I Can Do That!" sings Jeff Hyslop's Mike. "And . . ." introduces Ron Kurowski's Bobby. A. William Perkins' Richie, Karen Jablons' Val and Murphy Cross' Judy. Gorgeous Jane Summerhays, as Sheila, Miriam Welch, as Bebe, and Betty Lynd, as Maggie, explain to the inquiring director how they got hooked on dance. "At the Ballet." Steve Baumann and Christine Barker illustrate a husband who can sing and his tone-deaf, dancing wife.
Dancers know they must at least try to expand into acting, so in one of those solemn acting classes. Gina Paglia's Diana sings she felt "Nothing." Now Pamela Sousa's Cassie wants to get back in the choruses she left 10 years ago. The big chance didn't really turn out that way, and though the director once was her lover. Cassie performs "The Music and the Mirror," her personal settlement with anonymity.
Quite rightly, there is no intermission, for a strong ingredient of "A Chorus Line" is its seamless construction. Once it begins, it drives through a kaleidoscope to its parting rehearsal clothes gives way to the uniformity of stage costumes sparklingly alike.
Just as "A Chorus Line" is unique in design, it also was unique in creation - the stories of individual dancers being so linked in the book of James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, the lyrics of Edward Kleban, the music of Marvin Hamlisch and the total staging of Micheal Bennett that gaps do not exist. Each folds into the other as a result of the almost unheard-of tender, loving care the New York Shakespeare Festival's Joseph Papp allowed for its preparation. It's highly unlikely that this could have been pieced together in expensive, traditional ways.
Listening closely, I think that the big Opera House fits the production well. The listening silences were properly broken by responses of appreciation, and few I talked with on the way out seemed satisfied.Form starting in a small theater, "A Chorus Line" has gone on to some large spaces and it seems to work.
As for this production, I would scarcely have known it from the New York original. The first production one sees always is "The One," but the effect of this, drawn from several companies in line with Papp's belief that long repetitions aren't good for players, is to sense the richness of our performing arts. These are first-rate, disciplined talents and Eivind Harum, as the director, has the power for the necessary assurance.
Technically, there is the mastery of Tharon Musser's lighting, which literally breathes moods, flashbacks and performance magic onto a stage of barren darkness. The precision of this vital lighting, matching as it does the ensemble unity, surely earned its Tony.
There's one good thing about today's expensive musical show touring. A shoddy production shouldn't venture on the road. Those involved here have seen to it that their prized gem has all the sparkle of its initial performances.