This Iconic Tune From ‘A Chorus Line’ Was Initially a Bust: Here’s Why

A Chorus Line lives on as one of the most famous musicals of all time. Boasting several of the most iconic showtunes to date — “One,” “I Hope I Get It,” and the radio-favorite, written for PR purposes, “What I Did For Love —” the musical features seventeen Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on A Chorus Line, yet speaks to anyone and everyone who has ever been a part of a job application process. It may seem more glamourous on the stage, but in the end, we all just need a job, Zack. 

A Chorus Line
A Chorus Line | Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)

Though A Chorus Line boasted one of the most risque numbers seen on a live stage, especially at the time of its debut, the hit “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” was initially a major bust! 

In short, the song didn’t do too well in previews for the show; it didn’t get any laughs! But how? How could a song that references boobs as bingo-bongos and maracas fail to conjure a laugh back in 1985 – when Broadway was still quite refined?

“Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” once gave away the punchline  

Marvin Hamlisch — who wrote the show’s music alongside Ed Kleban — explained that the original title for “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” was “Tits and Ass;” meaning, the playbill for the production listed the punchline. 

As a result of this seemingly small yet understandable oversight — as Kleban and Hamlisch chose the title that best fit the lyrics — fans already knew the funniest, and most shocking part of the song, before they heard the number. Viewers sat down, opened the playbill, and there was the punchline … right out in the open for all to prepare for!

As noted by The Columbus Dispatch, Hamlisch told a Columbus, Ohio audience in 1995 that the show’s number didn’t get any laughs when the show played in previews. Both he and Kleban were shocked, as they expected the song to be the musical’s defining comedic moment. 

Hamlisch realized the problem when he sat down to watch a production of the show; he opened his playbill and saw the title right there on the song list page; he quickly realized they were giving away the punchline, they changed the title to “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” and the rest is, as they say, history. 

Hamlisch explained that after they changed the title, the song worked “like a charm.” However, imagine if they didn’t realize the true problem and completely cut the song? A Chorus Line would not be the same without “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three;” the song was a major risk for the time and stands to represent and augment just how groundbreaking the musical was for 1985. 

With bingo-bongos, balconies, orchestras, and all other euphemism for butts and boobs you can think of, the song has been making people laugh out loud ever since those behind the musical changed the title…