fintothewoods' favourites - The Music And The Mirror
46 years ago in 1975, the groundbreaking musical A Chorus Line opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre. The show was such a success that it transferred to Broadway that same year and ended up running for 15 years totting up a total of 6,137 performances. The musical was a smash, winning 9 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Though the show may have many successful tunes including 'One', 'At The Ballet' and 'What I Did For Love', the most iconic is 'The Music and The Mirror'.
The number is performed by Cassie, one of the auditionees in the show who was once a successful solo dancer but is now fighting to get a job. The song tells the story of her desperation to work and how much she longs for the stage. It features a major 3-minute long solo dance break originally choreographed by the legendary Michael Bennett. Over the years there have been some INCREDIBLE performances of this song - so here are a few of my favourites!
Donna McKechnie originated the role of Cassie and went on to win the Tony for her portrayal. McKechnie has become the blueprint for how to perform this number and it solidified her status as a musical theatre icon. This performance is from 10 years after she originally played the role when she returned to the Broadway production. McKechnie has performed in many shows over the years but most noticeably appeared in the original Broadway casts of Company, Promises Promises and State Fair (for which she received a Drama Desk nomination).
Daughter of legendary dancer Jacques d'Amboise, Charlotte d'Amboise has had a hugely successful career on Broadway garnering Tony nominations for Jerome Robbin's Broadway and for A Chorus Line. d'Amboise was part of the cast of the first Broadway revival in 2006 and had big shoes to fill - but fill them she did! Despite its success as a production, d'Amboise gained one of only two Tony nominations for the revival. Funnily enough, this wasn't the first time she had recreated a Donna McKechnie role. She played the part of Kathy in the first-ever Broadway revival of Company - a role McKechnie had originated 25 years prior!
Jessica Lee Goldyn
Jessica Lee Goldyn originated the role of Val in the 2006 revival as well as being d'Amboise's understudy. During the show's final week of performances, Goldyn took over the role! She has since played Cassie multiple times including the 2012 Paper Mill Playhouse production. Goldyn's other Broadway credits include the short-lived Tuck Everlasting alongside Terrence Mann (d'Amboise's husband!) and most recently in the ensemble of the revival of Hello, Dolly!. Goldyn's performance is definitely a firm fan favourite.
Robbie Fairchild was one of the biggest names at the New York City Ballet when he was a principal dancer for the company for 8 years. Fairchild also ventured into the world of musical theatre, earning himself a Tony nomination for his performance in An American In Paris as well as starring in the Cats movie as Munkstrap (one of the only good performances in the film...). The only male performance of this song to feature on my list, his 'Music and the Mirror' at MisCast in 2018 showcases his renowned dance skills on a very, very tiny stage!
Jane Krakowski is a well-loved actress with credits including 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on screen as well as Tony-nominated turns in Grand Hotel and She Loves Me and a Tony-winning performance in Nine. Krakowski often gets to show off her performing skills in her TV shows but this performance in the legal comedy-drama Ally McBeal truly shows what a versatile performer she is. Though it's a cut down version and lacks any of the original choreography, it still packs a punch. Also, I just love Jane Krakowski.
Robyn Hurder has featured in many US tours and Broadway shows including Spamalot, Chicago, The Wedding Singer, Nice Work If You Can Get It and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Hurder took on the role of Marty in the Broadway revival of Grease in 2007 and most recently received her first Tony nomination for playing Nini in Moulin Rouge!. She has also played Cassie - twice! Firstly, on the third US national tour and then again at New York City Centre Encores in 2018. Hurder has the energy that not many performers do and it shows in this performance. She is vibrant and energized throughout, despite the lack of orchestra and more importantly a mirror!
The only West End Cassie featured in this list is from the only West End revival of A Chorus Line in 2013 at the London Palladium. Scarlett Strallen, older sister of Summer, Zizi and Sasi, played the part of Cassie alongside a cast that included the likes of John Partridge, Leigh Zimmerman and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt. Scarlett Strallen is a two time Olivier Award nominee with credits including Singin' In The Rain, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder but she is most well known for playing Mary Poppins on Broadway, in the West End and in Sydney. Her sheer abandon when performing this number is delightful, and to perform this at the 2,200 seat Palladium is a daunting task (I imagine!).
Probably the most different interpretation on this list is from Debbie Allen. Debbie Allen is an Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress, director and choreographer whose work includes the iconic 80's TV show Fame and medical drama Grey's Anatomy. She has also been nominated for two Tony Awards. First in 1980 for Anita in West Side Story and again in 1986 for playing Charity in Sweet Charity. She performed 'Music and the Mirror' on the 1977 variety series 3 Girls 3, which was one of her earliest credits. A completely new dance break was written for this version to show off Allen's exquisite dance ability. There is even a slo-mo section - what more could you want?!
Bonus: Alyson Reed
Now, this isn't strictly 'The Music and The Mirror', hence the bonus, but I HAD to include it. Alyson Reed starred as Cassie in the controversial 1985 film version of A Chorus Line directed by Richard Attenborough. The film was a box office and critical flop despite the musicals major success on stage. Reed had previously played Cassie and Val in the US tour of A Chorus Line before landing the role in the film. Now, I'm still not sure why they decided to replace 'Music and the Mirror' with the VERY 80's song 'Let Me Dance For You' but I have to admit, it is good. Elements of the original still feature and Alyson Reed absolutely kills it. Aside from Chorus Line, she has been nominated for a Tony in 1987 for playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret and is probably most famous for playing Ms Darbus in the iconic High School Musical film series.
So, they're just a few of my absolute favourite performances of this song - but there are so many more! Let me know YOUR favoruite in the comments.