A Chorus Line

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Theater

 

Photo by Paul Kolnik

Five, six, seven, eight! After seeing A Chorus Line, one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, audiences might be tempted to high-kick their way out of the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Orpheum Theatre this June.

A Chorus Line is a classic,” says Bob Avian, who co-choreographed the original show in 1975 with the late Michael Bennett and is now the show’s director. “There’s a whole generation of people who haven’t seen this show who really should see it.”

The musical is a sort of reality show (conceived long before reality shows were on TV) about 17 dancers who spin, twirl, and leap their hearts out in an effort to earn a spot on a chorus line. The message, though, is much deeper than kids trying to break into show biz. It’s also about humiliation, sacrifice, and anguish, and for what? A chorus line job with total anonymity. It’s like working in a factory. There’s a bit of ‘every man’ in that message,” Avian explains.

Tom Hoch, president of Hennepin Theatre Trust says A Chorus Line was the first touring Broadway show that made an impact on him when he saw it in the early ‘90s.

“It’s a group of dancers putting their hopes and dreams on the line,” he says. “It’s a terrific production, so well done and so dramatic. We’re very excited to bring it here for Twin Cities’ audiences to enjoy.”

There will be eight performances at the Orpheum from June 16-June 21 before the show moves on to the next stop in the national tour. Whether you’ve seen the show before or are eager to see it for the first time, there’s a sort of timelessness that’s part of the experience. Avian worked diligently to recreate the 1975 production as it was originally conceived.

“This was Michael’s masterpiece, and I didn’t want to alter that,” he says. “I think Michael’s work is what the show was all about.”

The 1970s’ street clothes, the bare set, and Bennett’s choreography were all lovingly reproduced.

“The challenge was trying to find new, fresh talent that didn’t compete with the original cast,” Avian says, adding that it was no small feat. Thousands of people auditioned for a handful of roles. “The kids today can sing, dance, and act. They’re a triple-threat. If they don’t have the technique; then they have the flair. When I was a dancer, I couldn’t do what the talent can do today. They start training at an earlier age, there’s better nutrition, and the teaching is more intense and specialized.”

And while the show is of its time as far as style and content, today’s audiences can relate to the anxiety and exhilaration of adolescence (one of Avian’s favorite scenes is the montage “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love”), the vulnerability of youth, and the potential to sink or swim while striving for success. A Chorus Line is not only about dancers and their passion for dancing, it’s a powerful metaphor for human aspiration.

 

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