The bottom line
If your preteen/teen loves musical theater, A Chorus Line, playing at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre through Sept. 28, is a fabulous show. Garnering multiple Tony Awards when it first opened in 1975, A Chorus Line is the tale of a group of dancers auditioning for the chorus of a Broadway musical. There are 24 dancers, the choreographer who will make the final cut and his assistant. No incredible sets or whizz-bang effects here — it is largely set in a stripped-down audition room — just extraordinary dancing and music, plus compelling story telling. (Note: It is decidedly not for young kids, though — more on that later.)
At the start of the musical, we get to know many dancers individually as the choreographer calls them out of the casting line and asks them tell him about themselves and when they first decided to dance. This prompts stories — many painful — from their adolescent years. We hear from Mark, who mistook his first wet dream for the symptoms of gonorrhea (described in an anatomy book, which was his primary source for sex education).
Other dancers confide about seeing their parents having sex (cue my 11-year-old daughter cringing) and trying to hide an erection in high school (cue my 11-year-old daughter cracking up). Two dancers discuss what it was like discovering they were gay as teenagers. Cassie (played by Chryssie Whitehead, who performed in the musical on Broadway) was once a rising star but now has to learn to blend into the chorus line again.
The show runs in real time, where auditioners are winnowed down to the final eight who will be cast. It hits themes like the sacrifices involved in following a dream and the trauma of making it through puberty when you’re marked as “different.” While many of the characters’ stories are poignant, comic moments abound, such as when Kristine explains how she really can’t sing (in “Sing”). Needless to say, the jazz dancing is stunning. And whose heart doesn’t soar when they hear songs such as "One (Singular Sensation)" or when the cast comes decked out in full-on, sparkly chorus-line regalia, complete with top hats. Lots of local dancers are cast in this show.
Parents should know
The show is rated PG-13. You'll hear plenty of swearing (the F-bomb comes up a few times), discussion of homosexuality and sexual references (wet dreams, gonorrhea, masturbation, erections) as the auditioners share stories. But I didn’t find any of it hugely graphic. Consider the hilarious musical number about how plastic surgery saved one dancer’s career. Sample refrain: “Tits and Ass. / Bought myself a fancy pair. / Tightened up the derriere. / Did the nose with it / All that goes with it.” You get the idea.
If you go …
When and where: A Chorus Line runs through Sept. 28: Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 1:30 and 7 p.m.
Tickets: From $29. Buy online at 5thavenue.org or at 206-625-1900.
Ages: No children under 4 years old, including babes in arms, admitted. Show is PG-13.
Tips: You want an empty bladder before curtain. The show runs two hours and 10 minutes with no intermission: There’s a very long seating hold (you’ll cool your heels for 25 minutes in the lobby) if you miss the final seating call before the show starts. The ladies room on the mezzanine level had much shorter lines than the main floor.
Snacks: The $4 brownies on offer were yummy (cookies, candies and some sandwiches and hummus/veggie plates also available). Alcoholic and non-alcoholic bevvies available. Also save some time to savor the amazing, Asian-inspired 5th Avenue Theatre (be sure to look up at the ceiling.) Booster seats available.
Parking: Limited street parking and several nearby garages (check out 5thavenue.org for parking options).