I saw the touring production of the Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line” two Thursday nights ago at the Ahmanson Theater (I also saw in on Broadway a year and a half ago). I don’t know if it was the opening night audience, or the fact that L.A. audiences haven’t seen the show in a while, or both, but the crowd was incredibly appreciative, with applause and cheers coming unexpectedly, in the middle of songs, especially early on.
“A Chorus Line” was the first Broadway musical I saw as a kid. My grandparents took us when I was about eight or nine or so. I think my parents might have taken us to see it on Broadway at another point too. We also at some point saw a small production in Virginia. We listened to the soundtrack during car trips and I knew every line by heart.
As with “My Fair Lady,” which I wrote about a few weeks ago, seeing the show now made me realize how I’ve changed since I was younger. There were little realizations — like that I took turns of phrase literally. The line “married beneath him” confused me. And in the lyric “I stuffed her shoes with extra socks / ran seven blocks / in nothing flat” — I thought “nothing flat” was a reference to that fact that the bottoms of the shoes weren’t flat. Because of the socks.
I didn’t quite get that whole song about the girls’ messed-up childhoods, when they talked about “dug earrings out of the car,” “I knew that they weren’t hers,” and how that meant that their dad was having an affair, and the Indian chief and why she called him daddy, and young girls waiting to see if they’d turn out pretty. I got that there was something bad going on in these people’s families and that the ballet helped them forget about it, because “everything was beautiful at the ballet.” I didn’t really see how ballet could make you forget your problems. I still don’t. I’ll just take their word for it.
The biggest realization I had while watching the show the other day is how little I knew when I was a kid — as compared to how much I know now — about the desire to strive towards success in a chosen career, which is what the show is all about. When I was little, I related all the love references to love for people, like the girls I had a crush on in elementary school, not realizing that “love” in this show, like in the song “What I Did For Love,” refers to love of a profession, dancing. When I was eight I hadn’t really felt rejection. From what I remember, I enjoyed the beauty of the dances, and didn’t care too much about the desperation that the performers showed in every jump, twist and turn, the need to impress and to avoid rejection for the umpteenth time. I remember enjoying the flash and precision of the song “One,” but I don’t remember recognizing the song’s tongue-in-cheek expression of the show’s central dilemma, our desire to stand out versus the need to fall in line. It's nice to realize that having actually faced such dilemmas, and having faced the highs and lows of professional elation and rejection, has given me a more mature outlook on art, and on life.
Granted, my memory of the past is a little distorted, especially since I have stronger memories of listening to the soundtrack, as compared to my much more vague memories of seeing the actual show. Like when I saw it just now, I got chills at certain points, like the part when they all march forward and then put their headshots over their faces. Sure, one reason for that is that I now know how famous that headshot pose is. But I also don’t remember what I felt at that moment while watching the show when I was eight — I only remember listening to the soundtrack, which tended to happen in the car in the middle of Georgia while we were looking for a Holiday Inn.
But I do know one thing: during the song about “tits and ass,” I didn’t know what tits were. Seriously.