Nikki Snelson gets a leg up as Cassie in A Chorus Line.
A CHORUS LINE conceived by Michael Bennett, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, directed by Bob Avian (John Breglio, Mirvish). At the Canon Theatre (244 Victoria). To November 30. $20-$99. 416-872-1212. See Continuing. Rating: NNN
A Chorus Line is unbreakable.
The longest-running American musical in history tells the story of one gruelling audition to find eight chorus line dancers for an upcoming Broadway show. But if it were just a highlight reel from So You Think You Can Dance? it wouldn't have won a Pulitzer and survived three decades.
By chronicling the histories and dreams of a couple of dozen archetypal hopefuls, the show captures the human condition; characters wrestle with issues as profound as mortality and as superficial as getting their boobs done to find work and sex.
It's telling that a song about getting breast and butt implants doesn't get much of a laugh in this handsome near-replica of the original production. What would have been titillating back in 1975 seems a little obvious today. And the multiple coming-out stories of several male dancers, which made my closeted tween self sit up and take notice years ago, likewise have lost some of their edge.
But despite dated references to Robert Goulet and Peyton Place, and some costumes that verge on Koodo ad hilarity, A Chorus Line still kicks ass in the music and drama departments. Songs like I Can Do That, At The Ballet and What I Did For Love are full of genuine heart and emotion, and the cast is mostly up to the challenge.
Gabrielle Ruiz believes every word she says and sings as her Puerto Rican survivor, Diana, while Emily Fletcher nails aging glamour girl Sheila's tough cynicism and witty one-liners. Nikki Snelson makes an energetic if vocally underpowered Cassie, while Michael Gruber commands our attention as the show-within-a-show's controlling director (and Cassie's ex), Zach.
Theatrical tastes change in 30 years. Some monologues in James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante's book could stand tweaking, and the lighting design feels unsubtle. But the show should still be kicking its legs high a few decades from now.