By Nancy Sidewater
Updated October 06, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

At long last, the memory of Richard Attenborough’s abominable 1985 movie version can be laid to rest. This sensational revival is like a time capsule of the original Chorus Line, Michael Bennett’s pioneering 1975 musical about auditioning dancers that racked up nine Tonys, a Pulitzer Prize, and a then-record-breaking run of nearly 15 years on Broadway.

Even without Bennett, who died in 1987, it looks and moves like the old ACL. And no wonder: Robin Wagner’s simple yet startling set — a thin white line across the stage, luminous floor-to-ceiling mirrors — returns, along with Theoni V. Aldredge’s period rehearsal gear (lilac leotards, bell-bottomed jazz pants). Bob Avian, who choreographed the original with Bennett, directs with nearly identical staging, while Baayork Lee (the original ”four-foot-ten” Connie and a longtime Bennett pal) re-creates their multilayered choreography, a blend of everything from ballet to tap to ’70s mod.

The evening-ending kick line may seem passé and the various admissions of homosexuality less than shocking, but make no mistake: This 31-year-old musical, powered by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban’s hit-filled score, shows few signs of age. Of course, there’s no expiration date on the desire of young performers to make it in showbiz — and each character has a distinct story of rejection, triumph, and even silicone implants: Bronx-born Diana (a soaring Natalie Cortez) feels ”Nothing” in acting class; Maggie (”At the Ballet” standout Mara Davi) turns her absentee dad into a fantasy dance partner; Richie (the enthusiastic James T. Lane) chooses life as a Broadway gypsy over a straitlaced teaching job; and Paul (a heartbreaking Jason Tam) confesses his secret days as a teenage drag queen.

While each hoofer gets a moment in the spotlight, Cassie and Sheila — the two characters who broke out the first time around, thanks to career-making (and Tony-winning) turns by Donna McKechnie and Kelly Bishop, respectively — leave less of an impression here. Charlotte d’Amboise captures falling star Cassie’s passion; if only her voice were as strong as her feet. And while Deidre Goodwin has the brass and the bod for Sheila — who smokes, pops Valium, and tries to keep her vulnerability tucked inside her toe shoes — her hard-bitten vamp falls short; Goodwin grabs the laughs, but not Bishop’s compassion. Both performances seem like missteps in an otherwise sure-footed production.

Although so much about this Chorus Line is familiar, and so familiarly thrilling, one thing die-hard fans may not remember: There’s no intermission. But the 130 minutes fly by like one of Richie’s jetés!

A Chorus Line (Stage - 2006)

  • Stage
  • Bob Avian