The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

A Chorus Line is both a celebration of and a tribute to the unheralded men and women known as gypsies, who make up the chorus lines of Broadway musicals. The show opens as twenty-four young hopefuls learn the dance routine that they will use in the final audition for a new Broadway production. As the lights come up, Zach, the choreographer and director, is teaching a jazz combination, followed by a ballet combination. Identifying dancers only by their numbers, Zach puts the dancers into groups to perform. He watches as they dance and sing “I Hope I Get It,” a musical number that reflects their insecurity and desperation. The number ends with all the dancers lined up holding eight-by-ten glossy photographs in front of their faces.

As Larry collects the pictures and résumés, Zach begins questioning the individual dancers. They are asked to step forward and give their names, ages, and birthplaces, which they do with varying attitudes. As the last one finishes, Zach’s questions become more pointed. The audition becomes a performance interview, with each dancer given the opportunity to show his or her personality.

Mike’s audition is first. In his musical number, “I Can Do That,” he reveals that he began dancing at the age of four by watching his sister practice. When she refused to attend her lesson one day, he put on her shoes, stuffed with extra socks to make them fit, and ran all the way to her class to take her place. He has been dancing ever since.

As Bobby recites an exaggerated litany of family dysfunction, other cast members sing “And . . .,” in which they struggle to come up with something interesting to say when it is their turn to reveal themselves to Zach.

Next to take center stage is Sheila. She describes how dancing became her escape from an unhappy home life with a philandering father and a submissive mother, who transferred her unfulfilled dream of being a dancer to her daughter. In the musical number, “At the Ballet,” Sheila describes being happy attending dance classes and dance performances. Bebe joins Sheila in the second verse of the song and shares her own troubled history with a...

(The entire section is 889 words.)