A Chorus Line is simultaneously a spectacle and a character study.
Telling the story of a day of auditions for the titular chorus line and the individual personalities that make it up, it is a witty, heartbreaking script.
This is supported by beautiful songs and the kind of dancing that makes you want to recommit to the ballet classes you begged your mum to get you out of.
It is, however, not an easy musical to put on. It’s based on a premise many of the audience will never have experienced and takes place entirely in one place.
Director Lucy Scott and choreographer Eleanor Lang have compensated for this by creating a show that is visually interesting to the point of occasional overcrowding but could never be called boring.
Kudos to Lang in particular for modifying the frequently copied opening number choreography and putting her own spin on it, giving the production its own unique voice from the off.
The decision by Scott to have the performers on stage as the audience enters was a nice touch, revealing elements of the characters and immersing us in the world of the chorus line immediately.
There is an additional challenge in the show for a group of student performers. It’s a musical wherein many of the characters are facing their last chance at performing, some are reaching the age of retirement, and some just don’t know what they would do if they don’t make it.
‘Everyone wants to be a star,’ one of the characters drily notes, but these characters just want a shot. A particular notice to Kiera Battersby, whose portrayal of Cassie is perfectly realised.
The character’s desperation and determination were clear throughout the production, and Battersby’s voice and dancing are particularly powerful during her showcase number ‘The Music and The Mirror.’
The production consistently sounds extraordinary. Under the direction of Andy Davies, the band doesn’t hit a bad note and the choice to use pit singers is a sensible one, making the sound fuller even during the choreography-heavy dance numbers.
The UMMTS bands are never anything less than brilliant, and this is one of the best I’ve heard.
There is not a weak link in the cast – every performer does their bit to contribute to the whole, and showcase their comedy (Carol-Ann McConnellogue was particularly wonderful in her small part) as well as their dramatic ability.
Special mention must go to Morgan Meredith, Tom Carswell and Georgia Brown. Not only were they extraordinary in their own particular showcases, but also managed to catch the eye (and the ear) throughout the whole show.
Brown’s ‘Nothing’ completely captured the audience and she moved from comedy to pathos with ease.
UMMTS has done it again: taken an unusual choice of show for a university, given it over to a talented creative team, and created a resounding success.
From the archives, a never published review of UMMTS’ April 2017 production – A Chorus Line. Tickets for the society’s next show, Little Women, are coming soon.