A Chorus Line - James Kirkwood & Nicholas Dante
I read recently that the estate of choreographer/director Michael Bennett is planning a 2025 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line to commemorate its 50th Anniversary (feel old yet?). A Chorus Line opened on Broadway in July of 1975, and I still have vivid memories of seeing the touring company when it played San Francisco in 1976. A theatrical experience that, to this day, has never been surpassed.
|Irene Cara as Coco Hernandez|
"How bright our spirits go shooting out into space depends on how much we contribute to the earthly brilliance of this world. And I mean to be a major contributor. A sure-as-shit major contributor."
|Gene Anthony Ray as Leroy Johnson|
"I'm gonna be a good dancer. You will NOT keep me down!"
|Maureen Teefy as Doris Finsecker|
"If I don't have a personality of my own, so what? I'm an actress. I can put on as many personalities as I want!"
|Barry Miller as Ralph Garci (Raul Garcia)|
"That's the meanest high there is. It beats dope. It beats sex. I LOVE fucking acting!"
|Paul McCrane as Montgomery McNeil|
"I mean, never being happy isn't the same as being unhappy."
|Laura Dean as Lisa Monroe|
"I only ever wanted to be a dancer."
|Lee Curreri as Bruno Martelli|
"You're not my age. Nobody's my age. Maybe I'm ahead of my time!"
|Antoniza Francheschi as Hilary van Doren|
"You see, I've always had this crazy dream of dancing all the classical roles before I'm 21."
|Ann Meara as Mrs. Sherwood|
|Jim Moody as acting teacher Mr. Farrell|
|Ilse Sass and Albert Hague as Mrs. Tossoff & Mr. Sharofsky|
|Debbie Allen and Joanna Merlin as honor student Lydia Grant and ballet instructor Miss Berg|
In order to make room for songs and dance numbers while tackling everything from illiteracy, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and sexual exploitation; it’s necessary for the script to resort to a bit of narrative shorthand. But the sublime triumph of Fame—which stands as a resounding testament to Parker and the film’s remarkably engaging cast—is that the film, by virtue of its emotional vitality and cinematic ingenuity (the contribution of longtime Alan Parker editor Gerry Hambling is invaluable) achieves moments of real poignancy and is never less than an exhilarating, kinetic delight. Instead of avoiding the “aspiring teens put on a show” tropes standardized by Judy Garland Mickey Rooney in those old MGM musicals, Fame cozies up to and reinvigorates these showbiz movie conventions, resulting in my responding to clichés I thought I’d grown immune to ages ago.
If I have any criticisms at all, they’re of the subjective, nit-picking sort. For all the scenes that soar (the audition sequence is so good it could stand alone as a short film), there are head-scratchers like the recurring gag that asks us to share the ogling gaze of the adolescent boys peeking into the girls’ locker room. My problem isn’t so much with the fact that this sort of mainstreamed harassment has been normalized with “boys with be boys” rhetoric for too long; it’s that--given how Coco’s story plays out (a scene in which, once again, the director’s gaze renders us complicit in a woman’s sexual exploitation) it baffles how a director can display so much sensitivity in some areas while revealing such a blind spot in others.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
An example of ensemble casting at its finest, I can't say there's a single performance I find any fault with. The veterans and novices deliver with equal assurance, a credit to Parker casting cannily close both to type and the relative demands of each role. To cite a particular favorite is less a comparative assessment of one player being "better" than another, than it is a recounting of my own emotional journey watching the film. Based on who I am and how I'm wired, some things just spoke to me more persuasively than others.
|Irene Cara's delicacy (those cheekbones!) contrasts with her character's hardness, |
making for a compelling and strong screen presence. Cara went on to win an Oscar, Golden Globe, and a Grammy for co-writing the theme song to Flashdance (1983)
|I have to say that the Doris/Garci relationship is my favorite in the film. I didn't expect to like their characters, but the actors bring some remarkable nuances to their performances. Just watch how Miller listens in scenes.|
|The contentious relationship between English teacher Mrs. Sherwood and Leroy is very nicely played.|
Ann Meara really gives the inexperienced Ray a lot to work off of. He's at his best opposite her
THE STUFF OF FANTASY
The music and dancing in Fame is glorious.
|Hot Lunch Jam|
For sheer percussive energy, you can't beat this number. Cara's vocals slay
|I Sing the Body Electric|
Each and every time I make a bet with myself that I'm not going to get
waterworks from the graduation finale number. A bet I lose each and every time.
|Fame choreographers Louis Falco (r.) & William Gornel|
THE STUFF OF DREAMS
Sparkle and Aaron Loves Angela.
Pre-release publicity was minimal, so I didn't know what to expect. Try to imagine, on that big Cinerama screen, what it was like to discover all these talented unknowns and hear for the first time those songs that are now almost too-familiar. A thrilling, inspiring film experience from start to finish. And I returned to see Fame many, many times over the summer. I was enthralled and surprisingly moved by it.
I was still attending film school at the time and working full-time at a book store, but within the short window of eight months, the releases of All That Jazz (December -1979), Fame (May -1980) and Xanadu (August-1980) became the dance film trifecta that inspired me to seek a career as a dancer.
As for Fame, one of the main reasons I always get teary-eyed during the film's finale is because in that spectacular display of goosebump-inducing talent (in which the "stars" sung about have nothing to do with celebrity), I'm witness to the dedication and hard work that goes into making something beautiful, not making someone famous.