With a new production of A Chorus Line currently wowing the West End, it is deliciously timely that A Class Act, exploring the life of Tony-award-winning lyricist Edward Kleban, should now return to the Landor after a decade.
And what a cracking revival it is. Robert McWhir's production sizzles with energy, emotion and commitment as the show explores Kleban's manic, neurotic, obsessive song-writing career which produced the fabulous lyrics of songs such as "At The Ballet" and "What I Did For Love". Although he composed a trunk-load of other songs both before and after A Chorus Line, he was never again to achieve a similar success.
This wealth of passionate and emotive songs is brought together as Linda Kline and Lonny Price's book neatly frames the action of the play with a memorial service to Kleban. Using his own words, the show tells his story and that of the people who inspired, loved, helped and hindered him. John Barr gives a magnificent star turn as Kleban, one minute manic, the next quietly despairing at his misplaced feelings of failure. The rest of the cast provide terrific support, whether rising to the challenge of quick-fire lyrics and complicated syncopations, or delivering a moving ballad.
Sarah Borges gives a sweet, supportive Sophie, Kleban's long-suffering and eventually betrayed wife, with Jane Quinn, his steadfast friend, Lucy. Gary Jordan's Michael Bennett is a strong presence, dashing Kleban's dreams of composing the music as well as writing the lyrics for a Broadway show and constantly misleading him into believing that he will one day produce Kleban's musical Gallery. Marvin Hamlisch (Charles Hagerty) squabbles with Kleban as they struggle to establish their writing partnership for A Chorus Line. Barry Fantoni's Lehman Engel has an avuncular presence as he speak-sings his way through the songs.
Just everything about this show is perfectly on-song, from the fantastic four-piece band, to Martin Thomas's sparse setting at the stage door of the Broadway production of A Chorus Line to Robbie O'Reilly's compact choreography, which makes the most of the Landor's intimate space.
A Class Act is funny, warm, moving and passionate with a huge heart. Truly a class act.