A Chorus Line Authors: James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban . At: Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. Phone: 312-902-1400; $18-$85 Runs through May 3. A Chorus Line. Photos by Paul Kolnik.
Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens. Playwright: Tony Lewis At: MidTangent Productions
at Hydrate, 3458 N. Halsted, Phone: 773-835-0420 or hydratechicago.com; $10. Runs through May 9
For anyone revisiting A Chorus Line via its national tour, the experience will be a mixture of happiness and critical tut-tuting.
There is a warm nostalgia that many in the gay community have for this groundbreaking 1975 musical. Originally directed and choreographed by the late Michael Bennett ( who passed away from AIDS-related causes in 1987 ) , A Chorus Line had no bones about depicting the lives of Broadway dancers—including the openly gay ones.
But more than that, the show speaks to everyone who has strived to be loved and noticed. Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban's score combined with James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante's script can still emotionally sucker-punch you to tears.
A Chorus Line also amazingly anticipated our current national craze for elimination reality TV shows ( although the auditioning Broadway gypsies here are supremely more talented than today's TV contestants ) .
But where this tour can't compete is with our own A Chorus Line memories. Since director Bob Avian and choreographer Baayork Lee have so painstakingly recreated Bennett's original staging, you tend to compare and contrast the current cast with ones of the past.
Unfortunately for me, this cast as a whole didn't live up to the show's 20th-anniversary tour. No doubt some of the immediacy was lost by playing in a bigger theater, compared to a cozier space like the former Shubert Theatre.
Yet these comparisons are really unfair, since the polished cast executes the numbers fairly flawlessly ( although the opening-night vocals in —At the Ballet— were a mess, while the cast could enunciate its lyrics more crisply ) .
But if you have never seen A Chorus Line live, by all means go right now! The horrid 1985 film version captures none of the vivacity or depth of the stage original. Plus, you won't see A Chorus Line embodied this well for a long time.
One jarring reminder of how much A Chorus Line is a 1970s period piece is how the character of Paul is so ashamed of his drag queen past. For a more modern celebratory look at drag, head north to Hydrate to see MidTangent Productions' Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens.
The show is essentially an hour-long sketch routine. Parodied and lip-synched hits by the likes of RuPaul, Britney Spears, Cher and Fergie are inserted à la Mamma Mia! into a Chicago-centric retelling of the fairy tale by director/playwright Tony Lewis.
It all could have gone on another 30 minutes, if only the cast was up to the campy ironic skills of Emily Rogers' blissfully air-headed Snow White and Madame X's —ber-bitchy witch of Millificent Duville. ( Only Omicha House's Grumpy Hangover, Jennings Wynn's Happy Rosebud and David Leff's Bashful Bubbles came close. )
Snow White is nothing more than a fun drag romp, so go and have a gay old time.