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Little steps: The absurdity of A Chorus Line

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By tracing some of the ways that Michael Bennett’s choreographic dramaturgy telescoped, refracted and collapsed the presumed dimensions of musical theatrical space, identity and emotion, this critical rumination listens for the experimental echoes in A Chorus Line. Explicating how A Chorus Line recasts the audition as an especially absurd dramatic scenario, I submit that Michael Bennett re-choreographs theatrical scale – especially through the musical’s fractal storytelling and composite characterizations – to magnify the scale, scope and impact of every little story told and every little step danced ‘on the line’ of A Chorus Line. I contend that A Chorus Line’s absurdity lay not only in its dramatization of (paraphrasing Martin Esslin) the metaphysical anguish that defines the entertainer’s life but also in how its ‘affective absurdism’ has emerged as one of A Chorus Line’s most enduring, influential yet unexamined legacies for the genre of musical theatre.
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Keywords: A Chorus Line; Martin Esslin; Michael Bennett; Theatre of the Absurd; absurdism; audition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Princeton University

Publication date: March 1, 2016

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