Sunday, March 30, 2008

All I Ever Needed Was the Music and the Mirror and the Chance....

Okay, so this is a very specific blog kids. Here's the back story...this week in my musical theatre performance class, we were working on a dance in addition to our group song. The dance is probably one of the most iconic musical numbers in the history of musical theatre, "One" from A Chorus Line. Original choreography, hats and all. I have always wanted to learn that number. Having the chance was fabulous. But it's not about my love for the dance; it's about the show.

I have recently taken quite an interest in the show A Chorus Line. I have yet to see the revival but I would like to over the summer. I never got to see the orignial 15 year run, seeing as how I wasn't alive for most of it. I was four when it closed. But anyway, last semester when I was in LA, my acting teacher at school, Kay Cole, started my curiosity with the show. You see dear friends, Kay played Maggie in the orignial Broadway production. My interest was peaked instantly. One because hell, it was a show I knew fairly well and two, I wanted to see what this little woman teaching me was like back when she was my age. So I did my investigating. Actually, the biggest clue came to me while I was still in LA. I was doing one of my favorite things...listen to the Music Choice channels between commerical breaks. Or maybe I was just listening because my roommate wasn't home. Anyway, I turned on the Showtunes station and oddly enough, they were playing a song from A Chorus Line. The song "At the Ballet". I looked at the performers and there, in bold letters (they may have been in caps) was the name I was secretly hoping to see...Kay Cole.

My attention immediately turned to the television. I was captivated in my desperation to hear her sing. For those who don't know, the song is a trio between Sheila (played in the original cast by Carole Bishop aka Kelly Bishop aka Emily Gilmore from that awesome tv show), Maggie and Bebe. And at this point, I didn't know which role Kay had played. But I knew her voice as soon as I heard it. It sounds fairly similar to her speaking voice, which is very distinct. I was so excited. I had found a clue. So I did some searches around the web and found out what part she played, like I've said. It was so exciting to me because I knew someone who was a part of Broadway history.

So, that in combination with just having learned this dance have lead to me extreme obsession with the show. Wikipedia and youtube have pretty much aided my obsession. Ah, the internet. Really though, this show is amazing. The music is memorable and brilliant, the dancing is phenomenal, but what gets me the most is the storyline and how it came about. Here's where I inserting direct text from Wiki because I don't want to paraphrase.

"The musical was derived from several taped workshop sessions with Broadway dancers, known as "gypsies," including eight who eventually appeared in the original cast. With nineteen main characters, it is set on the bare stage of a Broadway theatre during an audition for chorus line members of a musical. The show gives a glimpse into the personalities of the performers and the choreographer as they describe the events that have shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers. During the workshop sessions, random characters would be chosen at the end for the chorus jobs, resulting in genuine surprise among the cast. Subsequent productions, however, have the same set of characters winning the slots.[1]"

There's also the plot synopsis. There are a bunch of dancers on stage in typical dance clothes singing "I Hope I Get It" (you know you know the song. sing as you wish). Let me state here that in high school me and my best friend tried to follow the opening choreography instructions to death. We're still not good over four years later but this summer we will be. Then 17 dancers are chosen by Zach (who is getting ready to be played on B'way in the revival by Mario Lopez...insert gag here. He's better than that part.) and as a way to get to know them, he starts to ask questions about them. So most of the show is a set of montages and songs including "Nothing (my first real experience with the show)", "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three", and "At the Ballet."

After all of this lamenting, the group goes offstage to learn another number, leaving chorus line veteran Cassie on the stage. She and Zach have a history; he has cast her as a soloist in pieces and they lived together. Cassie has just come back from a failed attempt at stardom and she needs a job. Zach tries to tell her that she is too good for the line, but she reminds him that she's a gypsy. And she really needs a job. She's a dancer, she loves , no wait...lives to dance. Thus comes the epic number "The Music and the Mirror" from where the title of this post comes. This is one performance I urge anyone reading this to check out on youtube. But you
must watch Donna McKechnie perform it. Hers is an inspired performance. A beautiful, gutwrenching number. And Ms. McKechnie blows that shit up frankly. There is a video of her doing the number on Broadway in 1988 *approx*, which would be about 13 years after she originated the role. Oh and she had been diagnosed with arthritis and told she wouldn't be able to dance again. Watch it and tell me that's a woman with arthritis.

So, the show continues. We see the cast learn the iconic number "One" where Zach and Cassie again clash about her being too good for the line and Zach tells some dancers they'll never get off the line. During a tap rehearsal, Paul, one of the dancers, falls and injures his foot. His career is OVER. That leads Zach to ask the dancers what they would do if they could no longer dance. That's when Diana steps forward and begins to sing "What I Did for Love" again, an incredibly iconic song. That leads us to finding out who gets chosen for the line. After that, the 19 original dancers come out dressed in very spangly gold outfits and perform the finale "One." As they perform, all traces of originality that we have seen for the past two hours is gone. They have become a real chorus line. Not one dancer is recognizeable from another.

So basically, this is just a really great show. There are parts that I want to dig deeper into as a reflection of my own life but alas, it is late and I need to rest. But here, I will include a list of links to look at. Please do check them out.

A Chorus Line wikipedia page
Donna McKechnie performs "The Music and the Mirror" in the original production
*the above performance isn't the best quality but its still good*
Donna McKechnie in 1989
The Cast performs "I Hope I Get It" at the 1976 Tony Awards
you can also check out clips of the Original Broadway cast recording on iTunes.

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