Where Dancers Are Given A Voice
A dancer life is a challenging sport that requires strength, agility, and endurance and it can be very grueling and taxing, especially going through the emotional and physical transformation of one’s body.
When one thinks of a dancer, they usually don’t think of one saying too much.
However, behind the beauty of this art form, is a life with a backstory that shaped the dancers’ lives and their decisions to become a dancer, all vying that coveted spot to be a dancer in a chorus line on Broadway.
However, for decades, dancers and performers have only seen themselves in the faces of the characters on the line. So what happens when these dancers’ lives are put on the line, and they are given a voice to express their dreams and struggles?
Michael Bennett famously conceived story ‘A Chorus Line’ opened Off-Broadway on April 15, 1975, running until April 1990. It has been the longest running show in Broadway history until Cats surpassed it in 1997. The show won 9 Tony Awards for Best Musical and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
‘A Chorus Line’ is based on taped interviews of Broadway dancers telling their personal stories. The play examines one day in the lives of seventeen dancers auditioning for spots on a “chorus line” of a Broadway musical. Set on an empty stage of a Broadway Theatre during an audition for a musical, where a disparate group of ensemblists dancing for their lives, are trying to “get this job.”
After the first round of cuts and seventeen dancers are left standing, ‘A Chorus Line’ provides a look into the lives of each dancer personality. During the next phase of the audition is where the dancers are put on the line when the male lead, the formidable successful director Zach (Richard Strimer) and his assistant choreographer Larry (Wade Tischhauser) put the dancers through their paces. Zach asks them to open up and share why they do what they do; so he will know them as individuals.
It is during this time that we get to hear the dancer’s narratives arranged by Nicholas Dante and James Kirkwood in the context of an audition. This type of audition brought about averseness for the dancers to reveal their pasts. Although the stories mostly developed chronologically from early life experiences through adulthood to the end of a career with some form of discomfort, it eventually opened up to revelation, confessions leading to redemption, which led to the dancer exclusivity.
From Cassie Ferguson (Laura Savage) the female lead in the musical, who was once a successful solo dancer, is now down on her luck and who is in a complicated relationship with Zach. She is a girl who just needed the “music and the mirror” and a chance to dance. Val Clark (Natalie Welch) a small-town girl with a brand-new-big-town body explains why she chose to get silicone and plastic surgery and how it really can help with casting directors.
Mike Costa (Matthew Weidenbener) a guy with eleven siblings after taking his sister’s place in a dance class, as a preschooler saying “I can do that” decided to take dancing seriously. Then there’s the streetwise a sassy, sexy, aging dancer who tells of her unhappy childhood Sheila Bryant. Erica Evans plays this role to perfection!
The testimonies of each dancer were complimented well with the musical numbers in ‘A Chorus Line.’ Each song delivered a delightfully inspiring message: “I Hope I Get It,” “I Can Do That,” and “One,” were some of the unforgettable songs that scored perfectly with the performance.
We had the pleasure of speaking with several of the actors in the play, and they provided some insight into the raw and real emotions seen on the stage. To our surprise, some of those interviews offered actual experiences, and they were some of the most potent and emotional acting scenes in the play. We also learned that the ending was changed after the actress Marsha Mason (wife of Neil Simon) requested they change the end and not cut Cassie. This play is a chorus line hit!
Let’s Play ‘Highly Recommend’ this universal experience of rare authenticity. “A Chorus Line’ is pleasingly honest, funny and a heartbreaking musical that gave dancers a voice!
Porchlight Music Theatre Presents
‘A Chorus Line’
Conceived and Originally Directed and Choreographed
By: Michael Bennett
Book by: James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante
Directed for Porchlight Music Theatre by Brenda Didier
Music by: Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by: Edward Kleban
Choreographed by Chris Carter
Music Directed by Linda Madonia
April 10 – May 26
Filed under: ChicagoNow