Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Chorus Line by Kirkwood/Dante/Kleban/Hamlisch (1976)

Summary:  Dancers in New York are auditioning for chorus roles in an unnamed Broadway musical.  The entire cast remains onstage for the majority of the musical while each separately delivers a monologue and interacts with Zach (the auditioner).  Ultimately, he chooses four males and four females for the production.

Thoughts:  Reading this play raised questions for me about the Pulitzer selection process.  I listened to a recording of the score the day before reading it, which unquestionably enhanced my reading experience.  None of the musicals I have encountered thus far in the project have included the music that accompanies the lyrics, so unless there is a separately obtained cast recording (in this case) or a reader has prior experience with the score (Next to Normal, Rent, others)….the reader is left to imagine what this play sounds like.  More than any other musical, the lyrics to A Chorus Line are largely rhythmic and must be accompanied by dance.  

The text of this play does not read like a stand-alone literary achievement.  Like several of the plays I have encountered, it is hugely dependent on a talented cast and, in this case, remarkable musical and dance performances.  My question is:  does the Pulitzer committee get to see all of the plays produced before giving the awards?  This certainly means that performance would have an impact on the production—especially in the cases of things like Next to Normal and A Chorus Line which are not stunning examples of literary architecture, but instead stylized musical performances.  Interestingly, I first wondered about the committee seeing performances before nominating when I read I Am My Own Wife—which is not a musical, but dependent on the work of one very talented male actor.

Though several of the monologues in A Chorus Line mention homosexuality, there is no mention of AIDS—because it was published in 1979 and is set in “the present.”  The actors each have their own set of given circumstances and emotional back-story; but are united by a common objective and have limited interactions with each other (a major departure from most of the plays that have been awarded the Pulitzer—which depend heavily on dialogue).  In fact, there are only two “relationships” in the play:  Al and Kristine are a married couple both hoping to get cast and Zach (the auditioner) was apparently once romantically connected to Cassie—who is too old to be auditioning for a chorus part.  The Zach/Cassie relationship feels a little forced, but certainly gives the play another dimension.

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