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A Chorus Line the Musical

On This Page: Commentary . DVDs . Cast Recordings . Sheet Music

The Writing of A Chorus Line

Noel Katz, composer-lyricistCommentary and writing tips by Noel Katz

We live in a time when television shows, crediting no writers, utilize the dramatic device of eliminating aspirants for a prize; episode after episode, people tune in.

A Chorus Line image from The Longest Line bookA Chorus Line is realer than any “reality show.” The process of creating it began with tape-recorded “rap sessions” in which Broadway dancers talked about their personal journeys. Director/choreographer Michael Bennett shaped these into a show that starts with a huge bunch of hopefuls and ends with eight people getting jobs in the chorus. He paid much attention to detail: the orchestra plays under most of the dialogue, and every little movement seems to correspond to a musical beat. The show places extraordinary demands on its performers: they must act, sing and dance brilliantly, or else the show wouldn’t make sense; the weakest are eliminated early on.

And those recordings were faithfully turned into monologues and songs by the authors, giving the whole show the sort of verisimilitude lacking in most backstage stories. We watch, knowing the stories ring true, and begin to assume that we’re hearing true biographical information. (With the original cast, in some cases, this was true.)

Most musicals follow one protagonist. A Chorus Line follows many, and so must quickly introduce them in ways that delineate them and make us root for them. Ed Kleban’s terse lyrics are particularly good at capturing what makes each character tick. Before long, the audience has a huge emotional stake in a whole bunch of people: the boy who snuck in his older sister's class, the athlete who can't picture himself a kindergarten teacher, the insufficiently pretty girl, the ostracized improv student, the augmentation surgery success, and many more. It’s hard to think of other musicals that engender such a depth of feeling for so many personages.

A Chorus Line succeeds in describing some of the realities of the Broadway business, but it also works on a metaphorical level. There are all sorts of situations in life (job interviews, college admissions) in which we “hope we get it” and experience similar soul-killing competition.

And the finale, “One,” is the ultimate irony. We’ve come to know the dancers as individuals, and yet here they are, indistinguishable from each other, working as a unit, singing how she – the unseen star of the show they’ve been cast in – She’s the one, not them.

A Chorus Line DVDs

Auditioning for A Chorus Line Documentary - Every Little Step

A Chorus Line Every Little StepBUY Every Little Step on DVD This documentary about A Chorus Line, released in October 2009, is a gripping behind-the-scenes look at the audition process for the Broadway revival of this musical. The camera also takes us into actual auditions for the Broadway revival directed by Bob Avian, showing the responses from the casting team in several instances. In it you'll see clips of choreographer and legend Michael Bennett. In some ways this documentary is more compelling than the movie version of the show.

A Chorus Line Move Version on DVD

A Chorus Line DVDBUY A Chorus Line (DVD) from Amazon.com 1985 film version starring Michael Douglas and Terrence Mann. Special features include a featurette "Marvin Hamlisch: From Broadway to Hollywood"

Cast Recordings for A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line Original CastA Chorus Line (1975 Original Broadway Cast) from Amazon.com Starring Donna McKechnie and Priscilla Lopez. Songs include: Opening: I Hope I Get It, I Can Do That, At the Ballet, Sing!, Montage, Pt. 1: Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love [Expanded Ver], Montage, Pt. 2: Mother, Montage, Pt. 3: Gimmie the Ball, Nothing, Dance: Ten, Looks: Three, Music and the Mirror, One, What I Did for Love, and One [Reprise]/Finale

Sheet Music and Libretto for A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line Vocal SelectionsOne of the advantages of buying the music for A Chorus Line is that the vocal score is available, as well as vocal selections and the complete book of the musical - (see the ads below for the score, vocal selections, and libretto in that order). Explore the nuances of this celebrated Marvin Hamlisch musical masterpiece and the great lyrics by Edward Kleban. You can also download a few of the specific songs.

 

"What I Did For Love" from Musicnotes.com from A Chorus Line Instant digital download sheet music.

"One" from Musicnotes.com from A Chorus Line Instant digital download sheet music.

Books about A Chorus Line

Beating Broadway how to book coverBeating Broadway: How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations.- See the chapter on A Chorus Line. - In Beating Broadway, a how-to book about writing musicals, author Steve Cuden delineates each "beat" of the musical's story to help writers understand what makes it tick. By understanding the shape of this successful show from a musical writer's standpoint, a reader may absorb principles that can be applied to his/her own writing.

Marvin Hamlisch memoirThe way I was  -A memoir by Marvin Hamlisch, composer of A Chorus Line. In this book that Hamlisch wrote when he was 45, he brings readers up to date with his life thus far, including his 14 years studying at New York City's Juilliard School of Music and his determined to go into show business (rather than the concert stage).  He also talks about his highly successful scores for movies and the Broadway show A Chorus Line that became a hit in 1975 when he was 31-years-old.

A Chorus Line history - On the LineOn the Line - The Creation of A Chorus Line  

Based primarily on interviews with the original 19 dancers whose stories provided the plot of A Chorus Line, Viagas, with cast members Thommie Walsh and Baayork Lee, recounts the history of the show.

The Longest Line - A Chorus Line making ofThe Longest Line: Broadway's Most Singular Sensation: A Chorus Line - A photo-filled book about the making of A Chorus Line.

 

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A captivating
feature
documentary about
A Chorus Line:

 

The movie version:


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