It's almost here: the Broadway opening night for the revival of A Chorus Line is this Thursday. The New York Times geared up for it by publishing two articles about the original production in today's edition.
The first article is about how the dancers whose life stories became the basis of the script of A Chorus Line now regret having signed away the rights to those stories. You can read the whole sad story at
"Chorus Line" Returns, as Do Regrets Over Life Stories Signed Away
The second article, which I found more interesting, is about the demise of the overture to the Broadway musical. (The connection to A Chorus Line is that it didn't have an overture; Marvin Hamlisch wrote one, but Michael Bennett and the show's other creators "decided not to include it, fearing it would destroy the illusion that the audience was watching an actual audition as the lights went up.")
The author of the article (Jesse Green) mentions a number of explanations for the disappearance of the overture, including the fact that the scores of Broadway musicals have become increasingly pop- and rock-influenced, and pop and rock songs don't lend themselves to being used in an overture in the same way that more traditional Broadway show tunes do. He also mentions that the orchestras for Broadway shows are smaller than they used to be, so they don't have "enough strings to sell the ballads, enough brass for the showstoppers."
But the explanation I found most disheartening is that there have been "fundamental changes in the way audiences receive information" -- by which he means that
The traditional curtain-down, unstaged overture presupposed that music was ... capable, all by itself, of holding people's attention. That notion has been sorely tested in recent years. Producers and directors say they doubt the audience's ability to perceive useful information encoded in orchestral sound. Decoding that information depends on the habit of listening to music for its own inherent expressiveness, without words, pictures or action: a habit that disappeared from mainstream American culture along with the piano in the parlor.
What a depressing thought.
Here's a link (which should be good for the next week) to the whole article:
Whatever Happened to the Overture?