Can a Facsimile Be Fresh?
The New York Times review of the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line that opened last night slams the production for being naught but a slavishly recreated copy of the original - down to the sets and costumes. Brantley goes on to say that the real problem with such an approach is that the original production was written, in a sense, by the original cast members--it was their real-life experiences that formed the basis of many of the monologues that make up the bulk of the play. So we now have contemporary actors trying to take on "characters" that were never really written as characters in the first place.
Reading the review made me lament how risk-averse Broadway producers can be. It's clear that the production is such a maniacally faithful recreation because the producers are terrified of messing - at all - with the original production's unprecedented success. But, as Brantley makes clear, A Chorus Line should be messed with. If the power of the came from the reality and close-to-the-bone nature of the "characters'" stories, then wouldn't the most logical approach be to recreate that act of creation? Maybe A Chorus Line shouldn't have a set script. Maybe it should have an outline, with the same songs slotted in and the framework of the play set up in advance, but the meat of the story, the characters' personal stories, to be developed from scratch by each new cast - just as they were for the original production. Such an approach would be risky, of course, and the finished product wouldn't look much like the original. But it's spirit, I'm betting, would be much closer to the original's. And wouldn't that be preferable?