When it opened on Broadway in 1975, it was, to quote its most famous song, a “singular sensation.”
And tonight the Lake City Playhouse will open its run of the Tony-, Drama Desk- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical.
This “dramedy” concept piece delves into the strenuous process that all hopeful performers of that go through while auditioning. The unique environment that the unnamed musical’s director creates shines a new light into the lives of the complicated people trying to make it big on the Broadway stage.
“The whole play is about these dancers being interviewed and auditioning for a chorus line. We’re hearing some of their stories, their angst growing up and moving through and past puberty and finding dance through all of that,” said Sean Streety, who plays Greg, a snarky, Jewish 32-year-old who knows he’s dancing his last shows. “The dancers talk about how it’s getting harder and harder to find work. How working for one’s passion maybe wasn’t worth it. Should they start a dance studio? Would that be copping out? It’s that strive for purpose and love framed around performance and dance and singing and acting.”
The show requires its actors to convincingly portray Broadway professionals, so many members of the cast have had to spend hours working up to the level of skill necessary for the job.
“It’s the hardest role I’ve ever done,” said Alyssa Hersey, who plays Cassie Ferguson, a struggling but passionate performer. “I think of myself as a singer first and then an actor and then a dancer. This is all three of those things, and all those three different talents are highlighted and they kind of have to be on the same level. We’ve all just been working really hard and getting closer and giving it a lot of attention and putting in a lot of work.”
In addition to the demanding choreography and complex choral and vocal arrangements, the show also asks a lot of its actors.
“It was different from any other musical that had been made at the time. It’s a stylized musical; it takes place on a stage and the actors never leave that stage. They’re in one costume for almost the whole show,” director Brooke Wood said. “The director asks the actors to be vulnerable, to tell their story: who they are, what got them to where they are. It reaches all races and colors and creeds and sexualities all in a time where that wasn’t done very often. It was pretty groundbreaking.”
It may be demanding, but the actors thrive on portraying such relatable characters.
“You go into an audition and you want to appear confident and in control of everything,” Hersey said. “Cassie is at the point where she has to get this job. She’s at the end of her rope. But I like roles like this, ones that deal with the whole range of emotion.”
These roles mean a great deal to the actors. Hersey said she has a deep connection with her character, a woman who is as devoted to her art form as she is.
“It’s just inspiring to me. This whole show is so affirming,” Hersey said. “It’s what I love to do and what I’m meant to do and what I love and I never want to stop doing it. I’m very fortunate to be with the cast and this creative team and in this role.”
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