A Chorus Line, an iconic show that ranks among the best of musical theater, comes to the Valentine Theatre for one performance Sunday.
The musical won nine Tony Awards in 1976, including for best musical, best original score, and best book, and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and it was among the longest-running in Broadway history.
It was conceived, directed, and choreographed by Michael Bennett, who won the Tony Award for best direction of a musical and the Tony Award for best choreography. The book was written by James Kirkwood, Jr., and Nicholas Dante. Its music was composed by Marvin Hamlisch, who also was the composer of the Broadway musicals They’re Playing Our Song and Sweet Smell of Success. Chorus Line’s lyrics were by Edward Kleban. The classic numbers include “What I Did for Love,” “One,” and “I Hope I Get It”
In A Chorus Line’s story, 17 dancers have made it to the final auditions for a new Broadway musical; this is their great opportunity to be in a big show, the dream of a lifetime. Zach, the director, asks each of them to tell their personal stories, revealing the hard work and disappointments behind the glamour of a career in show business.
It is based on true stories of professional dancers, Baayork Lee said in an interview on New York’s 77WABC radio. Lee created the role of Connie in the Broadway musical and was Michael Bennett’s assistant choreographer; she has directed and choreographed many national and international companies of the musical, and she is staging this new tour.
In the radio interview, Lee recalled that several dancers had gotten together with Bennett, going around the room and telling their stories. Bennett had brought along a recorder, and those stories became the inspiration for the stories of A Chorus Line.
Making her national-tour debut in A Chorus Line is Melissa Cabey, who portrays Val. She describes her character as an extremely competent girl who doesn’t care what anybody else thinks.
“She walks into a room and knows what she wants,” Cabey said. “She’s a sweetheart, even though her vocabulary can be coarse, and a joy to play because she’s the one person in the line who has no insecurities whatsoever.”
In Cabey’s solo number “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” Val realizes she isn’t getting many callbacks after auditions, and it’s because she isn’t pretty enough. She finds a solution in plastic surgery, pretty much top to bottom, to improve her figure. “It’s really a fun number, she’s strutting across the stage.”
The show’s choreography includes several styles of dance, including precision with a kick line at the end, and jazz.
And, Cabey added, “The show starts with Zach, who is the director, teaching us the opening combination [dance routine] for about a minute, and then he says ‘OK, from the top, five, six, seven, eight,’ and the whole cast turns around and faces the audience, and we break out into the full combination. That’s the iconic Chorus Line choreography right there.”
The young actress’ credits include singer and dancer for Carnival Cruise Lines, and swing/assistant choreographer in Billy Elliot, North Carolina Theatre.
She recalls the moment she walked onstage in her first show of the national tour of A Chorus Line.
“I remember when we did our first [dance routine], the audience started clapping and screaming like crazy, and none of us expected that to happen, so I felt the energy among the cast. We all just ... it was like holding back tears, because it felt so amazing. We were doing A Chorus Line and that was the moment; like wow, I’m doing it, I’m here! It was emotional.”
A Chorus Line will be performed Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Valentine Theatre, 400 N. Superior St. Remaining tickets for single seats are $49 and $69, from 419-242-278, valentinetheatre.com, and at the box office, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Contact Sue Brickey at email@example.com.
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