Friday, May 29, 2015

A Chorus Line -Review- Tyne Mill Volvo Theatre, 27th May 2015

A Chorus Line 
Nice Swan
Tyne Mill Volvo Theatre
27th May 2015

One! Chorus line of people Dancin’ til they make us stop Too! Many dancin’ people Covered in blood, gore and glop Just one sniff of that fog and you’re inside out It’s worse than that flesh-eating virus you’ve read about The above lyrics appeared in a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror many years ago to the tune of ‘One’, the show-stopping anthem from A Chorus Line. Until last night, the fact it inspired a song in which various Springfield residents shed their skin was the extent of my knowledge on this multi award-winning musical about the shared struggles and private battles of a Broadway chorus line to be. I expected some low-level bitching and a few barbs at the theatre world within an ultimately uplifting crowd-pleaser. But this production directed by Ben Hunt for Nice Swan showed there was a lot more going on behind the glitz and glamour. The scathingly dark commentary on professional bitterness and quashed dreams was brought to life by Nice Swan’s glorious ensemble of talented hoofers. Special mention must go to the elegant Lauren Gordon as failed star Cassie and Nikki Cunningham whose sultry stares as Sheila soon won over the crowd. The show also boasts a number of memorable and witty tunes; perhaps most famously the desperate ‘I Hope I Get It’ and the soft lilting ‘What I Did For Love’, while on the comic side we had the skilfully played off-key moments from Charlotte Casey as Kristine in ‘Sing!’ and not least ‘Nothing’ in which Tara Sweeting as Diana vented her frustration at ‘bull-***t’ drama games with very believable gusto. As well as directing the show Ben Hunt also appears as on (or mostly off)stage as Zach, the director auditioning the hopeful troupe. This is a tough ask and not one that worked entirely, as his chemistry with the other actors seemed distant and stilted. This was particularly noticeable with the character of Cassie as they’re meant to ‘have history’. In fact, as good as individual songs were, there was a sense the ensemble didn’t gel together and certain characters needed some work. This is a shame in a show which is built upon
caring about individual struggles, and perhaps why certain key dramatic moments held little tension or interest. Due to this, the mid-section of Act Two dragged somewhat. A bare set (of the rehearsal room mirrors, perfectly arranged) wouldn’t have been a problem if all the actors were on point but, as it was, I found myself wishing for something else to look at every now and then. But have I said that the dances are great? Because they certainly are. Credit must go to choreographer Stephanie Smith and Dance Captains Charlotte Casey (oh, I mentioned her earlier as well) and Lewis Mallam for some perfectly blocked, exciting set pieces that had everyone around me whooping like mad. Nice Swan have put on some fantastic productions, last year’s Addams Family The Musical was astounding, but they do have the capacity to misfire on the dramatic front (or perhaps just underestimate its importance) so I hope that - while they continue to produce bigger and better spectacles - they remember that character is key.

Mike Turner

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