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Tear Jerker / A Chorus Line

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Moments pages are Spoilers Off. You Have Been Warned.

  • A Chorus Line is one of the saddest musicals ever made, about the art of making a musical. First you learn everybody's backstory, then you see that all the years, all the physical exertion, all the isolation they put themselves through, amounts to being that fifth dancer in the sparkly spats, doing backup for the main star, absolutely unrecognizable. In addition, after spending the whole play getting to know all 17 of these unique characters, you remember that only eight of them will make the final cut in the end. The others are just unceremoniously sent home, still unemployed, still looking for a show to do, still starving as performers, and rejected after spending over two hours telling the director about themselves. The ones eliminated are Don, Greg, Al, Kristine, Bebe, Sheila, Connie, and Maggie, and Paul is disqualified after spraining his leg.
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  • Paul's monologue. Then his career is over when he snaps a hamstring.
  • Sheila is among the oldest of the auditioners, about to turn thirty, and her attitude is one of deep cynicism and weariness. Truth in Television: That is a dancer's life - high burnout rate, early retirement. She doesn't make the final cut at the end. At that point, she's probably ready to just give up entirely - or, on a happier note, become a choreographer herself like Zach, a failed dancer.
  • "At the Ballet". Maggie, Bebe, and Sheila sing about how they loved the ballet because their lives growing up were awful, and everything on stage was perfect and beautiful. Sheila's cold, self-absorbed father effectively played on her mother's insecurities that she would end up an "old maid" (at age 22) to get her to marry him and, when Sheila was five, she saw her mother finding the earrings of other women in the car; Sheila's father was clearly much warmer to his trysts than he was to Sheila's mother (or to Sheila, herself), who had given up her career in dance (her main joy) because he wanted her to, and that he often outright said that he'd "married beneath him". Bebe's mother always told Bebe that she would be "very attractive, when I grew up... 'different,' she said, 'with a special something and a very very personal flair'" and, at age 8 or 9, Bebe resented her mother because she could already tell that "different" is often a euphemism for "ugly"; "Now, 'different' is nice, but it sure isn't pretty, 'pretty' is what it's about. I've never met anyone who was 'different' who couldn't figure that out". As a result, she only ever felt beautiful as a ballerina. Maggie talks about how her father left after she was born because it didn't change his desire to divorce - her fantasy ballet has her father asking if she'd like to dance. At the very end of the show, all three girls (or two out of three, in the film) are eliminated and sent home, along with the others who didn't make it.
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  • "What I Did For Love". Christ. The song was chosen as Marvin Hamlisch's epitaph.
    Kiss today goodbye, and point me to tomorrow...
  • At the end of "Nothing", Diana is depressed because she didn't care that her old abusive teacher Mr. Karp died.
  • Bobby states that he was Driven to Suicide, but realized killing himself in Buffalo was redundant. If one subscribes to the possibility that Bobby is gay, it's kind of obvious living in the Rust Belt in upstate New York, where he was acting out (breaking into homes to rearrange furniture), was killing him and escaping to New York to be around other gay guys saved his life.
  • By 1991, only a year after it ended its original Broadway run, four of the five creators had passed away (Michael Bennett and Edward Kleban in 1987, James Kirkwood in 1989, and Nicholas Dante in 1991). Bennett and Dante both died from AIDS. The last creator, Marvin Hamlisch, would pass on in 2012, 22 years after the show's OBC ended and just before its West End revival. This also happened to Cameron Mason of the OBC, the original Mark Anthony, several of the replacement casts in Broadway, LA and touring productions (both regulars and understudies), as well as a few who appeared in the 1985 movie adaptation.
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  • On a meta level, there's the fact that pretty much all the stories the dancers tell of their lives were legitimately Truth in Television for Michael Bennett and his friends, including Paul's monologue (based on the life experiences of Nicholas Dante), Sheila's mother finding another woman's earrings in her husband's car, Maggie's father walking out on her and her mother just after she was born... In a lot of these cases, the stories have been taken almost verbatim from the tapes of the initial meeting - and, barring the odd amusing anecdote, the tapes themselves are certainly no picnic to listen to.


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