Thousands of talented dancers and singers flock to New York City every year with hopes of landing a role in a Broadway musical. Despite their tremendous expenditure of physical energy and discipline, only a few are chosen. And even then, the individual is soon overshadowed as the many in the chorus line become one.
This screen adaptation of the Broadway musical offers a loving tribute to these "gypsies" and the gusto they bring to their craft. Two new musical numbers have been added to the original show, and the kinetic choreography of Jeffrey Homaday is a treat to watch.
Michael Douglas plays Zach, the hard-nose choreographer who is conducting the auditions for a new Broadway musical. From his god-like perch at the back of the auditorium, he orders the 17 finalists, who are competing for eight spots in the show, to share something about their lives, hopes and dreams. Among the most interesting are Sheila (Vicki Frederick), a jaded hoofer who has been around the block and knows the scene; Morales (Yamil Borges), a feisty Puerto Rican woman; Richie (Gregg Burge), a dynamic dancer; Bebe (Michelle Johnston), a spirited performer who is just recovering from a nervous breakdown; and Paul (Cameron English), a homosexual with a sad story to tell.
One the major missteps of the film was the casting of Alyson Reed as Zach's old girlfriend who walked out on him and now desperately needs a job even though she's had a taste of the big time in Hollywood. This leggy actress doesn't convey the fire or passion needed to make her performance stand apart from the others.
Everybody, at one time or another, has been on a line similar to this one-anxious to be accepted and terrified of being rejected by someone judging his or her worth. Director Richard Attenborough (Gandhi) makes the most of this dramatic tension in the story along with the hopefulness of all those in the audition. Best of all, he captures the vibrancy of modern dance from the free-form confusion of the opening scenes to the high-stepping kicks of the finale.
The DVD edition contains a 26-minute video featuring Marvin Hamlisch recounting how "A Chorus Line" made it to Broadway; he has little to say, however, about the film.