Quote of the Day: An utterly ground-breaking musical, A CHORUS LINE took the Broadway world by storm, winning the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 9 Tony Awards including those for Best Musical, Book, Score, and Choreography, four Drama Desk Awards, and three Obie Awards. It opened in July of 1975, became the longest-running show in Broadway history in 1983, had a movie version that premiered in 1985, and finally closed in April of 1990 after 6,137 performances. from program notes by Laura Tahja Johnson, Artistic & Executive Director at Lyric Arts in Anoka, MN.
The music from A Chorus Line is firmly embedded in my psyche. Until yesterday, I had never seen a production of this fantastic show, but I knew the music. I sang and played One on the piano. I knew all the words to What I did for Love, lines like “I hope I get it,” and pictured some of the choreography, but I can’t tell you how I knew. I didn’t even know there was a movie version out there. So, when I saw that Lyric Arts was doing this iconic musical, I put it on my must-see list. I’m so happy I did. In fact, it’s so good that I want to see it again.
As the stats show, above, this musical has great crowd appeal. I think it’s because it shows real people struggling to make it in a challenging and competitive field, putting all their heart and soul into it. You wonder if the creators were inspired by the stories of people they knew. Did inspiration come from careful observation of the incredible dancers who make up a chorus line? I think there’s something about getting a glimpse behind the scenes that appeals to many people. While the members of that cast were becoming stars, they were portraying the people they were while working hard to get there.
I’m a huge fan of Kelly Bishop, who played Emily Gilmore on Gilmore Girls. She originated the role of Sheila back in 1975 and went on to win a Tony for her performance in A Chorus Line. In an old clip on YouTube, she’s holding her Tony and giving her speech, saying, “I have to accept this for the rest of the cast, because it’s impossible without. I’ll keep it at my house, though.” A Chorus Line is truly an ensemble show with each member having at least a bit of solo singing and dancing, and a few, like the characters Sheila, Cassie and Paul, having featured storylines.
Dorian Brooke plays Sheila in Lyric Arts’ production of A Chorus Line. She gives the character personality, a bit of “I’m tired of having to play this game” mixed with “I really need this job.” She’s already 30-years-old and knows that her time as dancer is running out. Jaclyn McDonald plays Cassie. She’s singled out quickly as both a standout and someone who maybe shouldn’t be there. The director, Zach (Kyler Chase) seems to be targeting her for some past grievance, which we learn about later. He does his “directing” from the audience, and he was near me for several scenes. During one, where he’s really picking on Cassie, I wanted to tell him to ease up and be nice!
Marley Ritchie plays Diana Morales and gets to solo in that most famous song, What I did for Love. I had goosebumps! Gabriella Trentacose plays Val Clark who gets the very fun, and funny, song Dance: Ten; Looks: Three. The guys have wonderful roles and storylines, as well. One of the most emotional performances comes from Chris Sanchez as Paul, who tells his story of abuse, rejection, finding a place in dance and drag, and finally coming out to his parents and their reaction. This musical was ahead of its time in casting a diverse group of people from varied ethnicities and backgrounds, and had characters speak openly about being gay, or depressed, and sharing deep pain from family and past experiences. Watching A Chorus Line is an engaging and emotional experience. It leaves you wanting to support the arts and the artists who give it their all, and makes me appreciate just how hard they work to be as skilled and smooth as they are.
Bravo to the cast and crew of A Chorus Line. Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Music by Marvin Hamlisch, and lyrics by Edward Kleban. Scott Ford directs Lyric Arts’ production. Choreography by Lauri Kraft, and Music Direction by Wesley Frye. Much applause to the fine musicians who make up the orchestra (although we don’t see them on stage). Scenic Design by Todd Edwards. It’s mostly a bare stage with one line running across it for the dancers. But, they have a clever use of reflective material to be like a mirror, but only reflects the actors when they’re close to it, so that it doesn’t distract the audience. Costumes by Christy Branham. Lighting by Shannon Elliott, and Sound design by Syd Estby and Corinne Steffens.
You can see this fantastic, multiple award-winning show, at Lyric Arts in Anoka, MN through October 1, 2023. Get your tickets fast. It was nearly sold out for last night’s performance.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Describe a skill that you have worked hard at, for years, to accomplish.