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By the Boards: Dennis Brown on the STL Theater Scene May 14-17

Categories: By the Boards
A Chorus Line, the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning show about dancers who share their hopes, dreams and innermost secrets while auditioning for a musical, was the sensation of the 1975-'76 theater season. When it closed in 1990 after more than 6,000 performances, it was the longest-running musical in Broadway history. Nearly two decades later, it is now the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. Three mega-musicals -- The Phantom of the Opera, Cats and Les Misérables -- have outlasted it.

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Paul Kolnik (www.achorusline.com)
When A Chorus Line received its first Broadway revival three years ago, once again it was warmly embraced by audiences and ran for another profitable 759 performances. Now the touring production of that revival is on view at the Fox Theatre. There's nothing very "mega" about A Chorus Line. Seventeen hopefuls stand in line at a cattle-call audition and tell their stories. Yet despite its simplicity -- perhaps because of its simplicity -- A Chorus Line is capable of moving an audience to laughter, tears and goosebumps. Its very humanity elevates theatergoing to an event.

It's easy to be cynical about revivals. Five years ago Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote the show's still-thrilling music, told RFT that he was "absolutely sick" of revivals.
"As a creator," Hamlisch said, "seeing another revival is about as big a waste of time as I can think of. You're up against people remembering the original, so you try to somehow make the revival more theatrical."

When I asked Hamlisch if that meant we would not be seeing a revival of A Chorus Line, he replied, "If they decide to revive A Chorus Line, of course I'll take the money, but it's not a show I'll have to work on."

I will review the current revival in next week's RFT. For now, suffice to say that while Hamlisch has every right to be cynical, this gorgeous revival retains the vitality and immediacy of the original. A Chorus Line continues at the Fox through May 24.

* * *

Obviously A Chorus Line is one of the most famous shows in theater history. But if you're looking for something a little more off the beaten track, you might take a flyer on Unity Theatre Ensemble's I Got the Music in Me! which runs at the Ivory Theatre May 20-24. (Yes, that's technically not this weekend, but if we waited till next week to give you the heads-up, you'd miss the midweek performances.)

Although most area theatergoers are familiar with the Black Rep, Unity -- another local African-American company -- seems to take pride in operating under the radar. Their website is out of date. It's hard to track them down. But last year the Kevin Kline judges found Unity and bestowed several nominations on their Cotton Club Revue.

We cannot review Unity shows here in RFT, because they only run for one week. But we can certainly point you to them. And now we have.
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