Musical shows trials of showbiz

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MATT FLOCCO TTN (Top) Diana, played by junior theater major Eileen Aurelia, stands “on the line” with the other performers.

The self-referential musical, “A Chorus Line,” opened in Tomlison theater March 16, and tells the story of auditions for a musical.

There is one singular sensation taking place in Tomlinson Theater this month – the theater department’s rendition of “A Chorus Line,” directed by Nick Anselmo.

Produced for the first time in 1975, the revolutionary musical rocked audiences with its ground-breaking format and content. After garnering the Tony Award for best musical and Pulitzer Prize for drama it was made into a film in 1985, and had a Broadway revival in 2006. The show still tours internationally.

“A Chorus Line” is about a group of dancers trying to land a job in a show directed by Zach, played by senior theater major Shawn Hudson. Taking place in real time, it moves from the initial audition to the first round of cuts, and then a second round of auditions unlike anything the dancers are used to.

By the end of the show, Zach chooses who will be cast. The irony is that the narrative audition in the show is reflective of real life.

“Honestly, the audition process for ACL was very similar to the show,” senior theater major Richie Sklar said. “The first audition was a dance call and we literally learned the first part of the opening jazz combo up to the pirouettes.”

Temple’s production runs two hours with no intermission. The dancing choreographed by Maggie Anderson is superb alongside the singing and acting. A challenge actors faced was that they are on stage 95 percent of the show, with very little time for breaks or rest.

“I had to do a lot of physical training in order to build up my stamina, vocal training in order to be able to sustain my vocals throughout the show,” sophomore theater major Travis Keith Battle said. “And just mental soul searching in order to truly connect with my character.”

“I started seeing things I know about my friends [on stage] in the characters,” junior theater major Jessie Bennett said.

With two rows of mirrors for a set, the audience learns that “A Chorus Line” is not an everyday musical.

“[The film] was one of my first musicals I ever saw, at 8-years-old,” Bennett said. “I was used to big productions and big show numbers, but this was simple – it is more about the characters.”

Each of the characters’ vibrant personalities pulls at a different heartstring for audience members. It is heartbreaking when the audience finds out which of its favorite characters make the show and which do not.

Though West’s, Sklar’s and the others’ characters have immense personalities and back stories that set them apart from one another, they slowly but surely learn from Zach that dance and theater are a collaborative effort.

“But ‘A Chorus Line’ is about so much more than theater,” musical theater department head Peter Reynolds said. “This show is relevant to so many audience members across the board.”

Each musical number tackles a different issue that theater goers and non-theater goers alike all must face. One deals with puberty and growing up, one deals with the demand for physical perfection and one deals with escape from reality.

In the world of the show, the wall of mirrors acts as just that in a typical dance studio.

“The mirror is so important to the dancer,” Anselmo said. “We are constantly checking ourselves to make sure we are dancing correctly, judging how we present ourselves to the world.”

“I think this is part of the universal statement that everyone is always checking the image they portray,” Anselmo added. “Making sure they don’t reveal too much of who they really are to the world.”

The mirrors act literally and figuratively as a reflection of the audience members.

For college students, especially graduating seniors, the show is extremely relevant. The audition could act as a metaphor for job interviews and taking the ‘next big step,’ and whether we as people are ready for that step or not, professionally or personally.

“I think that ‘A Chorus Line’ speaks to the heart why you chose the path you take in life,” said junior theater major Eileen Aurelia, who plays Diana. “Some careers require more personal sacrifice than others and often, the time you get to work in your chosen field is limited.”

Beyond that, the show is about taking oneself, one’s résumé and really putting it out there for the world to see, for better or for worse.

“I want this to really open the eyes of the each audience member – whether singer, or painter or business student – this story is meant to illustrate to the audience what it’s like to put yourself on the line and be completely exposed,” West said.

That true vulnerability speaks to anyone who is looking for a job or internship, or just looking to be recognized.

One of the final numbers in the show, “What I Did For Love,” captures the essence of this desire to be something truly amazing and inspiring. It teaches the audience members not only to follow their life goals but to reflect on what they do in order to achieve them.

“The show speaks to anyone who has ever wanted anything, or had a dream,” said senior theater major Calvin Atkinson, who plays Larry. “It’s what people do. We fight for want we want, and when we really want something, we fight even harder.”

“A Chorus Line” runs through March 31. Tickets may be purchased at the box office in Tomlinson Theater or templetheaters.ticketleap.com

Matt Flocco can be reached at matthew.flocco@temple.edu.

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