Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Oct 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

In Step

ae ChorusLine1‘A Chorus Line’ kicks off Cabrillo Stage season with a bang

The 1970s contributed much to our common slang, the vernacular we use to tell a story or set a mood. Musically, we were bequeathed the ominous repeating bass notes that could only mean a shark attack (Jaws), and on the other end of the spectrum we inherited the also-repeating two-note refrain that could only mean a chorus line, which, oddly enough, came from “A Chorus Line.” Theater fans—start rehearsing your unison bravos now, because Cabrillo Stage is opening its 2012 summer season with a production of this Tony Award-winning musical under the capable hands (and feet) of director and choreographer Janie Scott.

“I’ve waited a long time to do this. I’ve been asked many times over the years, but waited because I wanted it to be done the way I wanted it to be done,” explains Scott, demonstrating her renowned understated, yet incontestable will.

She is no stranger to the show, having played and understudied at least three of the female roles in national touring companies, and having worked with the show’s mastermind, Broadway legend Michael Bennett. Her plan is to remain faithful to the original 1975 production, including Bennett’s iconic original choreography.

“I’m honoring the original production,” she says. “I was lucky to work with Michael Bennett … there is something so special about it, the experience, and wanting to pass on what his vision was, and how he wanted to go about it.”

This is good news for audiences, but added pressure for the dancers. Scott points out she has “really been very picky about how that opening number looks, so if people have never seen the show they have a chance to say—oh, that’s what all the chatter was about, that’s what everyone was talking about.”

Joining Scott in the “Chorus Line” family, and bound to cause some impressions of his own, is Brian Conway, who plays Paul, the pivotal male character in the cast. Paul’s story—a revelation of his painful experience coming out to his parents, in an era arguably less prepared to handle such information—is not only as heart-wrenching today as ever, but was the first time homosexuality was presented on the Broadway stage in a dramatic and real manner.

“My goal with Paul is to take people on a journey, being as realistic as possible, being Paul but throwing in a little bit of Brian, too,” Conway divulges. “If you listen to what he has to say, there is something there for you. Everyone can identify something about themselves. Have I failed my child? Have I failed my parents?” 

This will be Conway’s third time playing the role of Paul, and it won’t be his last. After closing night, he will head to the Bay Area to reprise the role yet again. “I love the story it brings,” says Conway. “It touches me personally. It’s really funny because every single time I perform this, I feel like I’m auditioning. Every single time, whether I’m in rehearsal or on stage I will feel like—you know, we decided on someone else. It touches me so closely and it’s so real.”

The show has a deep connection with audiences, as well. It opened in 1975 and ran for 19 years. In 1983, it became Broadway’s longest running musical, and, when it closed, had tallied 6,137 performances. Since that time, only four shows have surpassed it.

ae ChorusLine2Song, dance, and all the drama you can stand merge together in “A Chorus Line,” opening at Cabrillo Stage this week.For those unfamiliar with the musical—it was the first non-narrative-driven success when it premiered—the plot, if it can be called that, is simple: At an audition for a Broadway production, a director and a choreography assistant choose 17 dancers. The director is looking for a dancing chorus of four boys and four girls, and he wants to learn more about them. They are then told to talk about themselves. That’s it.

The stories and characters are derived from informal group interviews that Bennett held with real working chorus dancers, or “gypsies,” as they were called. His goal was to honor the gypsies of Broadway, who built the necessary support for individual stars. The show was often dedicated “to anyone who has ever danced in a chorus or marched in step … anywhere.”

While fans were responsible for setting attendance records, critics shelled out awards. “A Chorus Line” won nine Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, three Obie Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Not bad for a singing and dancing show about singing and dancing; a show with only a half-dozen mirrors for a set; a show with no curtain call or love story.

When the show opened, the format caused quite a ruckus. “You didn’t even know what you were looking at,” says Scott, remembering the first time she saw it. “No curtain, no overture, no set. You sat waiting for the overture and there isn’t one. Then the piano plinks and someone yells ‘again’ and the dancers start. What’s happening?” The beauty of the staging and the intricate maneuvering of song, dance and personal narratives were magical. “They created something that has a massive universal appeal,” she adds.

Scott plans to recreate that magic in Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater. “[I have] strong support from a creative staff, the kind of orchestra and pit I want, that can realize the incredible score, and a cast that is capable of doing what I want to do,” she says.

Among the cast are some familiar faces to Cabrillo Stage fans. They include Crystina Robinette and Bobby Maechessault (the stars of last season’s hit “Hairspray”), Lauren Bjorgan and Hugh Haiker (featured dancers in 2010’s “Swing!”), and—in true “Chorus Line” form—longtime gypsy Janice Engelgau, who will play Maggie, in her first breakout role.

From the opening number, “I Hope I Get It,” to the show’s familiar hits, “At the Ballet,” “What I Did For Love” and “One,” the story moves forward, backward, inside the characters and around the dark recesses of the human condition. Heady? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. It is a challenge to come away from this show without thinking, “I’m a Sheila … a Greg … a Diana … I’m a Paul.” But no matter the identifying character, and no matter the reason behind the familiarity, audience members leave feeling connected and represented. How does a story about dancers accomplish this?

One woman’s theory is that the journey from anonymous auditionee to individual and sympathetic character, and then back to indistinguishable chorus line member creates a safety net, a comfort zone for the casual onlooker. This circle in and out of the spotlight seems to provide balance between our shared desire to stand out and be special with our need to blend in and belong.

 And let’s be honest—everyone loves a kick line. 


“A Chorus Line” runs July 13-Aug. 12 at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. A post-show discussion with the director and cast will be held after the July 22 matinee. Tickets are
$15-42. For tickets, visit cabrillostage.com, or call 479-6154. This show includes adult themes and language. Photos: Jana Marcus

See GTv video where Greg and Kim audition for a A Chorus Line >

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Field Work

Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers explain how the harvest works, and what kind of wine to expect from this year's crop

 

Libra's Two Choices

Libra (our last week) is the sign of creating right relations and values. In Libra we are asked to choose how to be, our identity in the world. We can maintain a hermetic sealed-off attitude (my life, my work, my money, etc.) or we can gain knowledge of world events and learn more about those in need. Libra is a group sign—self with others. Here are some events occurring in our world this week concerning food, poverty, spirituality, values and global realities. The UN (a spiritual experiment) each month places a “light” upon world problems. This week a light shines on Rural Women, Farms, Food & Poverty. Before we choose to respond we must have knowledge. “So we can each do our part.” Oct. 15 - International Day of Rural Women (unrecognized with few resources); Oct. 16 - World Food Day & Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth; Oct. 17 - Eradication of Poverty Day (international). During the month of Libra (with Saturn exalted), we pause, contemplate and assess what it is we know, don’t know, and need to know. Libra receives and distributes Ray 3 of divine intelligence, right relations, right choice and right economy (Venus). Use your intelligence “tips the Libran scales” in terms of being able to see and then choose between the two paths Libra offers (return to the past or step forward into Scorpio’s Discipleship). Libra (the oscillating light) prepares us for the great tests and conflicts in Scorpio. In Libra we are subtly tested as we learn the nature of polarized energies (s/he loves me, s/he loves me not). In Libra we learn more about ourselves through others. Libra’s Ray 3 asks us to become more adaptable and skillful. And then we are to teach each other what we know. In Libra, we all become teachers. In all these ways love is cultivated.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Docs Without Borders

United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Nut Kreations

Co-owner Craig Olsen goes nuts over nuts

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Friends who are wine club members of Martin Ranch invited us to the winery’s fun and festive annual barbecue, where the wine is flowing and the food just keeps on coming. Music and dancing are part and parcel of the action, and a good time is guaranteed.

 

Beer Bus

Santa Cruz’s new Brew Cruz, award winning ales, mole by el Jardín, and Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay