Chorus Line, A [1985]

If you've never seen this popular production performed on stage in its original form as one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, the movie version is probably your next best option--heck, it's your only option! But beware the major difference between the experience of stage and screen, because A Chorus Line is a perfect example of a show that doesn't translate well from one medium to another. Director Richard Attenborough gives it his best shot, cutting some of the production numbers and adding new ones while "opening up" the show to explore the off-stage lives of struggling performers as they prepare for another grueling audition. Michael Douglas plays the harsh, workaholic director who puts the auditioning "gypsies" through the paces, winnowing a large group of hopefuls down to eight lucky cast members for his next big show. There's a subplot about the director's former girlfriend, who returns for the big audition, and along the way the other hopefuls sing and dance while revealing their various hopes and fears. On screen, the musical works best when focused on its dramatic passages; otherwise it's impossible to escape the fact that this material is best suited to live performance. --Jeff Shannon

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