Showcasing the lives of theatre's unsung heroes.
As an amateur performer spending much of my free time on Leicester's Little Theatre stage as part of the chorus line/company/ensemble - whatever you like to call it - I've thought a lot about what the audition process would be like for a professional show. A Chorus Line provides many of the answers.
Just how I imagined it, these hopeful, aspiring, and some desperate, auditionees go through what seems a torturous process for each of them in their own way. Their experiences of the audition is altogether individual and collective at the same time. Much like our experience of the coronavirus pandemic, you might say.
Nikolai Foster's decision to bring A Chorus Line to Curve's stage is apt; it speaks to the theatre community as a whole during these difficult times. With no fancy, show-off costumes or set, A Chorus Line is a snapshot of cold, hard reality for those working, or trying to work, in the arts.
The story premiered on Broadway in 1975 yet its message surely couldn't resonate better with any time in history yet. For people with careers in the arts, being told to retrain and having very few opportunities to make money with their craft, performers of all kinds have been through their very own hardship.
Having auditioned in front of very friendly and welcoming casting panels made up of local people with full-time, 'normal' jobs who create opportunities for people to be involved in theatre purely as a hobby, I know that an audition can still turn legs to jelly and fill even my most confident theatre pals with self-doubt. To have to pay to take part in an audition, to make big travel commitments, to know that you are being judged from every angle and compared in every way to your peers, to fear that your livelihood depends on this, and to feel that if you don't get this gig you're going to suffer a massive blow to your self-esteem, I can sympathise with performers at the best of times.
But these are the worst of times and A Chorus Line delves deeper into the actors' lives by singling them out rather than portraying them as a whole chorus line that collectively carries a show. On top of the fast-paced and demanding dance audition, the in-show director played by Zach (Adam Cooper) insists each performer not only show him what they've got, but that they reveal their personal and intimate stories about why they're really at this audition, why they chose the theatre as their career, where the desire to be on stage originally came from for them.
While they try out for the ensemble, they each get their chance in the spotlight. Live video footage used on stage captures another level of intimacy and squirming audition-agony. From being rejected due to looks despite being a top class dancer in the song 'Dance Ten; Looks Three', and Paul San Marco (Ainsley Hall Ricketts) distressingly touching monologue about his sexuality, to a conversation between Zach and Cassie (Carly Mercedes Dyer) in which she shows she's come to terms with the idea that she may never make it as the lead, A Chorus Line covers all types of trials that artists face.
In an artistic and cunning set move, huge mirrors act not just as part of the rehearsal room set but to reflect the feeling of being in there with them. The audience can see themselves on stage, being exposed in a way they may never have been exposed before.
The final number, 'One (reprise)' the showiest of all, complete with pyrotechnics and golden costumes with top hats, brings on a standing ovation from the audience who were on the edge of their seats since the riveting opening number 'I Hope I Get It'.
See A Chorus Line at Curve this Christmas until December 31.
Written by Kerry Smith
Kerry is editor of Cross Production's Niche Magazine in Leicester and has a degree in film and journalism. She writes about business news, entertainment, and local people.