A Chorus Line is not only the fourth longest-running show in Broadway’s history, it is also the musical that gave show business ‘triple threats’ – people who could not only sing, act, or dance, but do all three.
It ran for 6,137 performances, won nine Tony awards, and is now Comox Valley Youth Musical Centre’s (CYMC) production for 2011.
CYMC has a reputation for giving youth, aged 12 to 25, challenging material to work with, as shown in their production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd last year. A Chorus Line will be no different.
“A Chorus Line will ask a great deal of the performers,” says director Lori Mazey. “The show is about a group of dancers auditioning for roles in the chorus of an upcoming Broadway show.
“On a deeper level it is about breaking down people’s walls and figuring out what makes them who they are. What makes each of these characters who they are and why are they so passionate about performing in general and dancing in particular? What have their journeys been that have brought them to this place and to this moment in their lives?”
Baayork Lee, who played Connie in the original Broadway production and later went on to choreograph the 2006 Broadway revival, described A Chorus Line as the first reality show.
TV programs such as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars answer the exact same question as A Chorus Line did 36 years ago — what do dancers have to endure to become famous?
Though some may question whether or not young performers will be able to take on such a challenging and iconic show, Mazey has no such doubts.
“I am a big believer that young performers have the talent and passion to take on big challenges and shine,” Mazey says, adding that she has previously worked with young performers in shows such as Romeo and Juliet and Urinetown. “The most obvious challenge will be the dancing — since not only is this a show with lots of it, but it is also a story about characters who make their living dancing on Broadway.
“Yes — there is a willing suspension of disbelief, but ultimately we need the audience to buy into the idea that the characters on stage dance for a living. There are also great acting challenges with rich and distinct characters sharing the journeys that have taken them to this moment.
“The material in A Chorus Line is rich and varied. I can’t wait to work with students on it and share it with the communities in the Comox Valley and Duncan.”
In an amazing feat, A Chorus Line will be put on after less than two weeks of rehearsals. When asked how she plans to do this, Mazey laughingly replies, “Pray?” before saying, “We are doing as much planning as we can ahead of time to make the most use of every moment of rehearsal time.
“When individual performers are working on solos and monologues — the rest of the group will be rehearsing large cast numbers or attending workshops.”
A Chorus Line was the first Broadway show to be inspired by Broadway. It had a profound impact on performers and people hoping to go into show business.
While it showed the triumphs of dancing for a living, it also showed the harsh reality of performing: sometimes, your dreams don’t come true.
As Yuka Takara, who played the role of Connie in the 2006 Broadway revival says, in Every Little Step – The Journey of A Chorus Line, “It is important because it’s a story about dance, what we go through every day and the stress, and dealing with the problems that we have and not regretting it … living with it and just living our lives. It’s so important because it is the truth.”
So what will Mazey concentrate on during the short amount time that they have to get the show ready for audiences?
“Making sure the story is clear is very, very important to me. That means going back to the text over and over and working with the performers and designers to bring out and support the ideas, characters and themes within that story.
“I am really picky about details.” Mazey continues. “This is true of all aspects of a show — including choices in acting, choreography, props, costumes, set and publicity, to name a few. I definitely don’t believe in the attitude of ‘good enough’ in any area and I am happiest when working with performers and a production team who have the pride in their work to take the time to be specific. That does take a lot of work and it means that everyone is definitely exhausted by the end of the show.
“However, everyone can walk away knowing that they did the best job they possibly could have and that they have honoured both the text and the audience. I believe the audience who takes the time and spends the money to see your show deserves only your best crafted work.”
CYMC Musical Theatre performers present A Chorus Line and Glee Club. The show will run at the Sid Williams Theatre from July 18 to 25. Tickets are available online at www.sidwilliamstheatre.com at the Sid Williams box office or at 250-338-2430.