Chorus Line: CD Review

By Jeff Walsh

Anyone who knows me realizes me objectively reviewing the New Cast Recording of A Chorus Line is silly. When it comes to this CD, they had me at "Again...," the first word spoken in the opening number.

This is one of my favorite shows of all time, if not my absolute favorite. This show was Broadway's version of reality TV back in the 70s. The stage is bare, a line runs parallel to the edge of the stage, as dancers tell their life stories in prose and song to try and find work. Seeing it onstage always inspires me. There is no artifice in Chorus Line, no chandelier falling in Act Two, no revolving stage, and no helicopter coming down from the rafters. Whatever happens onstage is there because of bodies, breath, heart, sweat, and yearning, and the result is always magic. The songs are their stories, and by the end many of them are our songs and stories on some level, too. It shows the true power of theater.

Umm... anyway, this is a CD review... I guess one thing that might make sense is to talk to the Rentheads on the site, the ones already most likely to be reading my writings about Broadway-related stuff. You know how you knew the Broadway Cast recording of Rent to the point where you could perform it, and then they released the movie soundtrack and it was the same thing, but the timing, delivery, and inflection was often different? Well, there is some of that for me with Chorus Line, because I've been listening to the original cast recording for as long as I can remember.

The clear victory of the new recording is much of the 70s-ness has been removed, all of the "of the moment" chicka-chicka porn guitar stuff wafting through the arrangement. It comes across as more timeless than the original because of that, and just being recorded in this day and age makes it more iPod-friendly than the original, so all the lip readers at my gym wondering why I'm singing about my tits and ass have Marvin Hamlisch's new score to thank.

The cast is really flawless, some of the songs are performed at a faster pace ("I Can Do That" and "At The Ballet" most noticeably), and the "Hello 12, Hello 13, Hello Love" montage is a lot longer, with more spoken excerpts woven throughout.

The one complaint I have with the recording is how they dealt with the area of digital music. The new cast recorded the song "And..." but left it off the CD (as did the original cast recording), but then made the track available only to Rhapsody subscribers. Of course, I whipped out the credit card, joined Rhapsody for a two-week trial, illegally ripped the song, called Rhapsody 10 minutes later, and canceled my account. But then, if you buy the album through iTunes, it includes Karaoke versions of some of the songs... but only if you buy the complete album. You can't get the karaoke tracks as individual downloads. Why not just release the CD with "And..." in the track listing and finish it off with the karaoke tracks for everyone to enjoy?

But, that complaint aside, I listen to this CD all the time. It has replaced the original cast recording for the most part. Again, I don't know I'm someone who can objectively review this CD, though. I mean, I actually sing, "Who am I anyway? Am I my resume? That is a picture of a person I don't know..." every time I click send when applying for a job online. I'm not kidding...