Riverside Theatre, January 13


“I haven’t worked in two years,” Cassie tells Zach, and she could be speaking for actors, dancers, singers, musicians, creatives and crew everywhere. Amy Campbell’s Darlinghurst Theatre production of A Chorus Line was originally slated for March 2020. It previewed but didn’t open. She assembled a new cast for August, 2021. No go. More recasting. This time around even Omicron couldn’t quite stop Angelique Cassimatis’ Cassie finally saying that line, and Campbell finally making her deserved debut as a director as well choreographer.

Angelique Cassimatis, All photos: Robert Catto.

Her choreography for the show is all new, and a pinnacle of it comes in Cassie’s long solo following her singing The Music and the Mirror, composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Edward Kleban’s song about the desperation, cruelties and intermittent highs of chasing a showbiz career. Like Michael Bennett’s original Broadway choreography, Campbell’s steps offer snappy proof that Cassie was once a star now reduced to trying out for the chorus line, but Campbell has devised a much more taut and sexy sequence for the elongated coda, where Cassie may be half-attempting to seduce Zach (Adam Jon Fiorentino), who is her ex as well as the show-within-the-show’s director.

Ethan Richie’s character, Paul, is another to receive a larger slice of the spotlight, telling Zach a backstory that constitutes a daringly long component of James Kirkwood’s Jr and Nichols Dante’s book. It’s a tale of shyness and shame, of struggling as a child with his homosexuality and of finding a place in the world, and Richie superbly sustains the tension, never letting the pathos become maudlin.

Photos: Robert Catto.

This speech’s length is just one example of how the show twisted the musical theatre rulebook beyond recognition in 1975, with its bare stage, having an ensemble as a protagonist, and giving dance such primacy. Of course there are also memorable songs like At the Ballet (primarily sung by Nadia Coote’s Sheila) and Dance: Ten; Looks: Three (Rechelle Mansour’s Val). But the story’s point is for us to understand how these unique individuals whom Zach auditions are then moulded into an entity in which individuality plays no part, and that’s a price Cassie is happy to pay.

Structurally it’s like a proto-reality TV show, with those auditioning being unceremoniously evicted, and this, too, may have contributed to its becoming the seventh-longest-running show in Broadway history.

Despite several expert performances, including from Brady Kitchingham as Larry, Zach’s assistant, the production is currently uneven. Some of the wittiest lines were thrown away, voices were brought forward in the mix after people had started speaking or singing, and the ensemble vocals were sometimes submerged in the pre-recorded music tracks.

But hats off to Amy Campbell. To have chased her dream show through all that the world has thrown at her is inspirational. She has a good cast, has devised some exceptional dancing, and the flaws can be fixed.

Until January 22; Sydney Opera House, February 11-March 6.