Chorus Line, a [Import]
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A Chorus Line
If you've never seen this popular production performed on stage in its original form as one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, the movie version is probably your next best option--heck, it's your only option! But beware the major difference between the experience of stage and screen, because A Chorus Line is a perfect example of a show that doesn't translate well from one medium to another. Director Richard Attenborough gives it his best shot, cutting some of the production numbers and adding new ones while "opening up" the show to explore the off-stage lives of struggling performers as they prepare for another grueling audition. Michael Douglas plays the harsh, workaholic director who puts the auditioning "gypsies" through the paces, winnowing a large group of hopefuls down to eight lucky cast members for his next big show. There's a subplot about the director's former girlfriend, who returns for the big audition, and along the way the other hopefuls sing and dance while revealing their various hopes and fears. On screen, the musical works best when focused on its dramatic passages; otherwise it's impossible to escape the fact that this material is best suited to live performance. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The stage version of the show runs in real-time. You watch the singers/dancers do the first number, after which they go through an initial cut down to "the line" of hopefuls, and then watch as each presents himself/herself to the casting director. The intensity of the stage show is that those folks on stage remain there, leaving once or twice, but largely, they stare back at you and don't leave. You stare at them, and it gets scary. Just like an audition.
The movie tries to "open it up" by messing around with the pacing and timelines. There are flashbacks, people arrive at different points into the audition, there is footage included from outside the theater. Worse, the concept of "the line, no stars" from the show is lost in a poor subplot involving the director and one older dancer. (Yes, in the stage version that subplot's there. It's not the focus of the show, however, and the single top-10 song from the show, "What I Did For Love", is stolen from its focus about the love of dance/art and used in this wretched context instead.)
Do not see this movie before seeing the stage show.
It's considered, by Broadway types, to be the worse movie adaptation of a Broadway show that's been done. (Oliver and Chicago are the opposites, both adapting the shows excellently without being a simple film of a stage production.)
Now, the bad news: A CHORUS LINE on DVD is still the inferior movie version of the quintessential 1970s stage musical.
Since that was a mistake made 18 years ago, there's not much anyone can do about it, so let's not dwell on what a bad stage-to-screen adaptation the film is. Let's take a closer look at why you may want to own this title on DVD.
1. When compared to the previous panned-and-scanned VHS/laserdisc versions of this film, this anamorphic widescreen version preserves the 2.35:1 aspect ratio the film was shot in. The group dance sequences look better, and the continuity errors of the background people (arms shifting position from folded to outstretched on change of camera angle) are not as noticeable since they're much smaller.
2. The color and sound have never been better.
3. In addition to the theatrical trailer, there's a nice 20 minute featurette where Marvin Hamlisch talks about his experiences writing the music for A Chorus Line for the stage and for the screen. What's annoying is that this featurette was clearly edited by someone unfamiliar with the show. When Hamlisch says original lyricist Edward Kleban came out of some sort of retirement to compose two songs for the film version... the documentary cuts to an excerpt from the wrong song! The clips featured are from "Who Am I Anyway?" and "Surprise", when the new songs written for the movie were actually "Surprise" and "Let Me Dance For You". This lack of even basic research shows a total lack of respect for the material, and such a mistake shouldn't have been made.
4. Many of the excellent songs from the Broadway version did make it, anyway... despite those two lousy replacement songs filling in for some fan favorites.
If you never saw the stage version of this musical, then maybe you can enjoy this DVD. But if you did and are expecting to relive the show's magic by purchasing this disc... then you're in for a huge disappointment.