In 1975, composer Marvin Hamlisch, lyricist Edward Kleban, and writers James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante decided to collaborate on a musical about the lives of those folks on the Broadway chorus line. They gathered a bunch of their friends in acting and dancing together for a long night of conversation (and wine) and tape-recorded what was said. This was the result.In this musical, the lives of many dancers converge on stage as they audition for a big musical. They do their best to impress the director, Zach, and hope they get the job. However, once they're down to seventeen, Zach makes a surprising request: he asks the dancers to tell their names, ages, and a little bit of their Back Story - where they come from and why they dance. Ranging from hilarious to heartbreaking, they tell their stories one by one. After one of them faces a possible career-ending injury, everyone confronts the question: what does it mean to them? In the end, eight are chosen.They all reunite on stage for the final number, for which each performer is dressed identically, removing all the individuality we learned about them through the production.
This Show features examples of:
A-Cup Angst: Val, as told in her number, "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three."
Bittersweet Ending: It's between this and a Downer Ending: One of the dancers injures his knee, with a 50-50 chance of ever being able to dance again. Only some of the dancers will be accepted into the chorus line; the others have to go. That's the reality of show business. The chosen dancers are all dressed in identical costumes for the final number, merely back-up for the main character that we never see.
Blessed with Suck: All of these characters have phenomenal skill. It's a shame that one day they'll have to stop doing the only thing they know how to do, and what they love, because their bodies won't be able to handle it anymore.
Camp Gay: All but one of the dancers in the stage version are openly gay; in the film, two are straight.
Christmas Cake: Sheila's father told her mother she was one, despite her only being 22.
Distant Finale: Okay, maybe a few months in the future finale, but still.
Dysfunction Junction: Aside from the fact that they've chosen a job which by its very nature means they have all experienced unemployment, poverty, rejection and possibly injury, many of the dancers have traumatic backstories, including absent, estranged or disapproving parents, homophobia, sexual molestation, the death of family members, and bullying. No one is overly angsty about it though, and all of their experiences are based on the lives of real people.
Non-Answer: The director asks the cast what they would do if, one day, they could no longer dance. Would they have anything at all to fall back on? They don't answer, instead they sing "What I Did For Love," about moving towards tomorrow without regret or pain, which is a great song, but doesn't answer the question.
Refrain from Assuming: Val's number was originally called 'Tits and Ass,' but was re-titled after the first line in the song to keep audiences from getting the joke. (In high school productions, the number is redubbed "This and That.")
Roman à Clef: All of the characters are based on recorded interviews with real dancers. Some of the dancers, like Renee Baughman and Priscilla Lopez, were eventually cast as "themselves." Maggie's story actually belongs to Donna McKechnie (the original Cassie), while Paul's story was originally co-author Nicholas Dante's, and so forth.
Sadist Teacher: Diana Morales tells the story of one from her drama school days in her number, "Nothing."