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Published: Wednesday, 10/27/2010

Revered 'Chorus Line' still alive and kicking after all these years

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A revival in 2006-08 ran for more than 750 performances and recouped its entire $8 million investment after only 19 weeks.

No wonder, then, that the cast members of the new tour landing Thursday night at the Stranahan Theater use nearly reverential tones when they speak of the show.

"We have to say every word exactly, and every step is so exact from the original choreography because it is a Pulitzer-winning script. The choreography has now become famous, because it is the original Michael Bennett choreography and that's what people want to see," said Ashley Klinger, who plays Kristine.

"Originally the show was so popular because no one had talked about a girl getting breast implants and a guy being gay on stage before, and now it's become a classic. I mean, the song that I sing in the show was on Glee last week. It's famous music, it's famous choreography. People want to see that, so it's pretty much an honor to be in it."

Kieron Cindric of Findlay, who is a swing performer, links the show's continuing popularity to its simplicity.

"There aren't smoke and mirrors," he said. "Well, there are real mirrors, but no metaphorical smoke and mirrors to the show. It's really just about stories and about storytelling.

"Anyone who has gone through any sort of audition or tryout or even interview process knows what it feels like to be vulnerable and exposed in front of your interviewer. Each of these dancers wants and needs a job, and you're excited for the dancers who end up getting the job as well as heartbroken for those who don't get it. And beyond that, it's also just really great timeless music and the balance between acting, song, and dance is really great in the show."

Klinger and Cindric were chatting in a telephone interview from Syracuse, where the tour was performing recently.

A Chorus Line takes place in a theater, where Zach, the director and choreographer, is auditioning dancers for ensemble roles in an upcoming musical. He needs eight, so when he gets down to the final 18 applicants, he sets aside resumes and photographs and asks each performer to tell something about himself or herself. They can all dance, Zach knows that. What he's looking for is that indefinable something that sets a performer apart and draws the eye.

The auditioners are wary. They're used to dancing, not talking, and sharing their personal experiences with a stranger assaults their inner defenses. Getting rejected for not being able to dance is one thing; getting rejected for not being worthy as a person is another.

Klinger's character is a superb dancer, but she's utterly tone-deaf and can't sing a lick.

Klinger says not only is the role fun, it's the one time a performer is allowed to ad lib during the show.

"For my song … I'm supposed to sing certain things very badly," she said. "And I don't have them planned out at all, so it's all kind of improv. Whatever note comes out of my mouth, that's what I sing. So it makes it really fun and fresh, even for the rest of the characters, who are wondering 'What's she gonna do tonight?'"

Originally from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Klinger, 21, is one class away from graduating from Point Park University in Pittsburgh and is finishing up online.

A Chorus Line is the first professional tour for the trained singer and dancer, who says she consciously has to think about singing badly.

"At the very end, there's a note where the whole entire chorus is singing a five-part harmony," she said, "and I always want to fit in that harmony, because that's what my ear is trained to do. So it takes some effort to come up with something that does not fit in that chord."

Cindric faces an entirely different set of demands each night. As a swing, he understudies multiple roles, so he can step in for another performer with little notice.

"It's a sizable task," he said. "We all act as swings, and we all understudy a variety of parts, but the two of us who are totally swing are understudying eight different parts each. So you really have to be on the ball, and you end up understanding pretty much where everybody is on stage because you're covering so many different people. I guess we've had 14 or 15 performances so far, and there have only been four I haven't been on."

A graduate of Columbia University in New York City, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Cindric might look familiar to northwest Ohioans.

A swimmer and a diver in middle school and high school, Cindric says he used to train with the team at Sylvania Northview High School, then competed all over the region.

At 25, he's been performing for several years now, including a tour of Bye Bye, Birdie two years ago, which stopped at the Valentine Theatre in downtown Toledo.

"That was really exciting for me being back in Toledo," he said. "I have a ton of family and friends there. It would have been nice to have been able to stay longer, and it will be nice to be in Toledo longer this time," he said.

"A Chorus Line" opens at 8 Thursday night at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Additional performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $23 to $57, plus additional fees, and are available from the Stranahan box office, TicketMaster outlets, and theaterleague.com. Discounts are available for students (balcony seating) and members of the military. Information: 419-381-8851.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at

ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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