March 23, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it a B+

In its new Broadway incarnation, this musical about the frustrated career of Edward Kleban — the 1976 Tony- winning lyricist of A Chorus Line, who never got another show off the ground and died of cancer 11 years later — has more emotional moments than it did in its first go-round at Off Broadway’s Manhattan Theatre Club. Still, a basic meagerness lingers in A Class Act. First, there’s the snag of Kleban’s work as a composer, premiered posthumously here and barely more memorable than most ’70s sitcom theme songs. Second, the book, cowritten by Linda Kline and director Lonny Price (who also plays Kleban), never shares what drove the neurotic nebbish who, it would have us believe, was ”the best lyricist since Steve Sondheim.” Only the scenes with A Chorus Line‘s Michael Bennett (David Hibbard) and Marvin Hamlisch (Jeff Blumenkrantz) come alive, offering a glimpse into Kleban’s talent. Due partly to Price’s droning performance, you’re left feeling that an able cast has been high-kicking around a vacuum. It’s hard to care about a man who cared only about his career.

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