By Peter Filichia —
Never mind that 36 years have already gone by since A Chorus Line opened on Broadway. What’s really astonishing is that five years have already passed since the revival of A Chorus Line opened on Oct. 5, 2006.
Each of the two productions yielded a cast album. But A Chorus Line does have a surprising distinction that can’t be said of many shows: one of its songs has been released in three markedly different renditions.
We’re talking about “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello, Love.” When the so-called “long-playing” record of A Chorus Line was first released in late July, 1975, “The Montage,” as it was also known, rang in at six minutes and forty-five seconds. During that span, we learned that Bebe had a crush on Robert Goulet before segueing to Steve McQueen and then Nureyev; that Richie had planned to be a kindergarten teacher; that Sheila’s father went through life with an open fly; and that Val was disappointed with her body. (That complaint nicely set up a song she’d do later.)
Those who got the record before they saw the show had a big surprise in store when they finally arrived at the Shubert (or at any of the tour’s venues). Only then did they learn that there was substantially more to “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello, Love” than they’d been hearing.
The reason, of course, was that vinyl long-playing records couldn’t play all that long. And while much (if not all) of the sequence was recorded, we didn’t get any more of it until the A Chorus Line compact disc was released in the early ‘80s. Over three tracks, “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello, Love” came in at nine minutes and fifteen seconds.
Here’s where we learned that the “long-playing” record had denied us Connie’s lament on being a height-challenged four-foot-ten; Paul’s observation that his “whole life was a secret”; Judy’s thrill at having shaved her little sister’s head; and Greg’s recollection that during his teens, he got erections at the drop of – well, many things.
By the way, Greg’s humorous section led to an extraordinarily important moment in A Chorus Line. As he told of adolescent angst and erections while making out with a girl, many men in the audience identified with him and thoroughly enjoyed him. But then Greg told the audience that he eventually realized that he was gay. During this disclosure, some of those same men abruptly stopped laughing – until they realized it was too late for them to turn against Greg. They’d already come to like him, and now they couldn’t reverse their feelings just because of his sexuality, could they?
The extra two-and-a-half minutes were fun to have, but those who knew the first recording by heart were constantly startled at this “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello, Love.” Whenever they played the CD, they heard something “new” inserted at a point where they’d been conditioned to expect a familiar line or lyric. But what really surprised everyone was that the earlier edited LP version hadn’t sounded at all chopped up.
What literally hundreds of thousands of theatergoers had learned by then was that “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello, Love” wasn’t truly accurately delivered on either recording. For one thing, they knew that the CD version was still abridged. For another, they now knew that the song that has been given its own cut after “Hello Twelve” – Diana Morales’ admission that she felt “Nothing” when improvising or hearing of her teacher’s death – was not its own stand-alone song. All along, it had been situated midway through “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello, Love.”
And that’s where it would finally and correctly be positioned in the 2006 Broadway revival cast album. For the first time, the entire unexpurgated “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello, Love” (including “Nothing”) was consecutively put on disc – all 18:47 of it over four tracks.
Finally we also could hear Mark’s anguish over his wet dreams, which he assumed meant gonorrhea; Judy’s horror at having learned too late that The Ted Mack Amateur Hour had auditioned budding talent in her town the week before; Don’s adventures with Kansas City stripper Lola Latores; and Connie’s proclamation that even at a mere five, she was doing The King and I.
Oddly and interestingly enough, as Broadway-centric as A Chorus Line is, The King and I is the only musical that’s cited by name in the entire show. While lyricist Edward Kleban could have rhymed Tricks with 1776 or Purlie with Curly, or Molly with Hello, Dolly! he was intent on making A Chorus Line universal rather than theatrically parochial. One of his most successful achievements was in fact “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello, Love” – in which he included many more than twelve or thirteen examples of adolescent highs and lows.
Peter Filichia also writes a column each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at www.theatermania.com/peterfilichia;. His new book Broadway Musical MVPs: The Most Valuable Players of the Past50 Seasons is now available through Applause Books and at www.amazon.com.