The 1975 musical A Chorus Line, in which a couple of dozen aspiring and seasoned dancers vie for slots in an upcoming show while telling their life stories, was inspired by real dancers during several workshops held over a period of two years. The original goal of the workshops was to create a troupe to teach dancers how to win roles in future shows.
Instead, the workshops evolved into a show, with eight of the participants in the workshops actually winning roles in the Broadway production.
It was a surprise blockbuster, nominated for a dozen Tony Awards and winning nine, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score. It played more than 15 years (a record that it held until Cats surpassed it more than 20 years later) and, with its timeless stories of acceptance, rejection, love, disappointment, triumphs, childhood traumas and myriad other emotional conflicts, has become a favorite of professional and community theaters since then.
Richey Suncoast Theatre opens its version of A Chorus Line on May 9 and continues for three subsequent weekends.
It takes place on a bare stage in a semidark theater, where about 20 or so dancers mingle about, hoping for a coveted spot in the chorus of an upcoming Broadway show (I Hope I Get It), and chatting with each other — until the famous director known simply as Zach (Keith Surplus, Ching Ho in Thoroughly Modern Millie) gets their attention.
This audition won't be the usual, he lets them know. Sure, they'll have to prove their dancing abilities, and a few are eliminated right off the bat when they can't cut it. But then, Zach wants to learn about their personal lives, to make sure they'll be a good fit for his show.
Over the next couple of hours, in between learning the dance steps, they come forward, some reluctantly, others brashly, to reveal something about themselves. There's Mike (Jeffrey Oles, Jimmy in Millie), who went to his sister's dance class and realized I Can Do That. And aging, cynical Sheila (Addie Mentry, chorus in Millie), who found solace from an unloving home At the Ballet, as did Maggie (Jackie Sabulsky) and Bebe (Dezzie Sala, Kit Kat girl in Cabaret).
The others slowly tell their stories, including Cassie (Alyson Larkin, title role in Millie), Zach's former girlfriend who tried for a solo career, didn't make it and now wants to get back in the chorus line. Some stories are touching: Paul (Andrew Aman), who struggles with being gay, and Diana (Amanda Castillejo) who struggles with her inability to feel. A few are funny: newlyweds Kristine (Stephanie Cooper), who can't sing a note, and Al (Jessie Yarbrough), her adoring husband who tries to cover for her; or young Mark (Mike Mekus), naive to the point of hilarity. Then there's sassy Val (Allison Iskowtiz, Vicki in Caught in the Net), whose Dance 10, Looks Three is a show favorite.
It's a fascinating tapestry that can only end in elation for some and heartbreak for others — rather like life itself.
The director is Marie Skelton, who also choreographed the show with Linda Hougland, who plays Laurie, Zach's assistant. Jackie Doxey Scott is the music director.