A Chorus Line: Music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante
By Barbara Damashek
Since its 1975 Broadway debut and ensuing 15-year run, the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Chorus Line has been a landmark of the American musical theatre canon.
In its time, it was a singular sensation not only for its unusual content, but also for the way it was created. It was the first mainstream musical to be generated from oral history and taped interviews. It was the first to have enjoyed a genesis away from the traditional pre-Broadway tryout route, in a long workshop process subsidized by Joe Papp’s Public Theater. This was a phenomenon, which subsequently spawned a workshop movement all over the regional theatre.
As a period piece, it chronicled a historical moment in the life of the chorus “gypsy” dancer when Broadway was ailing, when the American musical was moving steadily away from its traditional dance-based origins and before the terrible onslaught of the AIDS pandemic. And for the record, it was also the first musical to deal with homosexuality in a matter-of-fact manner.
Frank Rich credited the show’s greatest innovation to Michael Bennett’s stylistic approach, more inspired by film techniques than theatre of his day. No glittering red staircases and star performers…just an empty stage with a white line painted on the floor, the dancers, the mirror and the lights.
Ultimately, with the spotlight on that anonymous and ancient entity called the chorus, the play has become a theatre ritual for the ages.
I had long considered this lovely work to be beyond our scope to produce at State. But due to enthusiastic support from multiple departments, we have been able to offer Dance and Drama students a challenging, intense and joyful immersion with a dynamic team of faculty, professionals and alumni. Hopefully we can sustain this model for future projects.
I want to add my personal thanks to my inspiring collaborators Ray Tadio and Barry Koron, to Dean Paul Sherwin and Associate Dean Todd Roehrman, to Department Chairs Larry Eilenberg and Dee Spencer, to Jana Griffin, Nicole Helfer and to our devoted, big-hearted and indefatigable ensemble of performers, stage managers and designers.
Finally, thanks to all of you for being here on the line with us.
And now...a five, six, seven, eight...