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'A Chorus Line' staged by Santa Clarita Regional Theater

Hope, triumph and heartbreak dance together at the Performing Arts Center

Posted: February 27, 2009 3:05 p.m.
Updated: February 28, 2009 5:25 p.m.
"A Chorus Line" opens at the College of the Canyon Performing Arts Center "A Chorus Line" opens at the College of the Canyon Performing Arts Center
"A Chorus Line" opens at the College of the Canyon Performing Arts Center

Seventeen dancers put their dreams, their hearts, their sweat and their souls on the line to earn a spot "in the line."

In art repeating art, the actor/dancers in the Santa Clarita Valley production of "A Chorus Line" actually do live what the play portrays. They earn their spots in the show and give everything to it - and it's all waiting for you when the Santa Clarita Regional Theater, the "more mature show" performing arm of the Canyon Theatre Guild, opens the famous musical at the Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons Saturday night.

The local production of the Tony Award-winning musical is directed by TimBen Boydston and Patti Finley, and choreographed by Nancy Alterman.

Finley said she had never been involved with "A Chorus Line" before but had always wanted to be because she knows firsthand what the play's characters go through during their auditions to make the production.

"The show has always been very close to my heart," she said. "It's so hard to do what these kids do at every audition. You put yourself out there."

She gave the perfect example as the play's song "I Hope I get It." Here the hopefuls are dancing their hearts out and, at the same time, thinking out loud.

All: "God, I hope I get it. I hope I get it. How many people does he need?"

Tricia: "I really need this job. Please God, I need this job. I've got to get this job."

Paul: "What does he want from me? What should I try to be? So many faces all around, and here we go. I need this job, oh God, I need this show."

Finley explained that in most auditions the people selected find out the next day if they are coming back. "In this play they know by the end of the audition whether they have gotten the job or not," she said. That's because the audition is the play, and of the 17 hopefuls, only eight get the job in the end.

But Finley noted that, in the world of the theater, even those rejected keep coming back. "I love them. These are my favorite people in the world," she said. "I think the dedication, commitment and perseverance of these ‘chorus kids' is something everyone would benefit from."

Boydston said the Santa Clarita Regional Theatre arm of the Canyon Theatre Guild was formed to do shows that have a broader base, a more mature audience, than the typical CTG production. "We picked ‘A Chorus Line' for that fact," he said. "It deals with adult themes."

He added that another reason the show was selected was because it was very "portable." He said the show plays on just three weekends. "We needed a show that could go in and come back out with the other shows at the Performing Arts Center." What made it so portable is that it doesn't have much of a set. "It takes place in an empty theater," he said.

And the reason the PAC was chosen over the CTG's own stage was the sheer size of the production. "The show is about dancers. They're in a line, 42 feet wide," he said. "They have to have space beyond that on the sides. It's a huge area to dance in. We don't have enough space at Canyon Theatre Guild."

So why not reduce the cast? "The play was absolutely written for a certain number of people (17). You can't reduce that. They each have a part," Boydston said. "You can't combine them. They are different people, with different reasons (for being there). And they all come together as a theater family because of the dancing."

Of course with dancing being the focus, the choreography and the choreographer are vital parts of the production. Finley noted that the show benefitted from the experience of choreographer Nancy Alterman. "She toured in the international touring company of ‘A Chorus Line,' she played Diana," Finley said.

Alterman said she was in two companies of "A Chorus Line" professionally, so the play is very close to her heart as well. "I tried to recreate much of the original choreography. But I had to modify it for the group," she said.

Alterman said she brought in some dancers from local Dance Studio 84 to provide the first dancers to get cut from the show, which reduces the number to 17. "They don't get the last audition, the call-back," she said. "The show is about the call-back of the 17."
She was very complimentary of the cast, noting how talented they were. "They have worked so hard - six days a week - and they have given everything they've got," she said.

If you are "A Chorus Line" fan, you already know the characters. And, if you are not, there isn't room here to describe all 17 and discuss the actor/dancers who play them.

But both Boydston and Finley noted that the production features Denise Plummer as Cassie, the female lead. Plummer, who is the daughter of one of our city's founders, Carl Boyer, said she toured with the first national tour of "Showboat," and was part of tours of "Mame," "Will Rogers Follies" and "Evita."

"I did a Christmas season as a Rockette in the city of Chicago," she added. "Most of my career I was a dancer who sang," she said, "but I would go out for any job that was casting dancers." She also worked in industrials, movies and television, "whoever would hire me."

"The reason I am doing this (‘A Chorus Line') at this point in my life is that it's the show I never got to do," Plummer said. "This is the quintessential dancer show."

She noted that she came close to being in "A Chorus Line" earlier in her life, auditioning for the part of Judy, but that her best friend got the part instead. She said that she was too young then to audition for the part of Cassie, which is a "more mature role."
In regard to her fellow actors in the local production, Plummer said, "Everybody in this cast gives 100 percent all the time, and everyone is prepared."

Jarod Scott plays Zach, the director who must select his cast from the hopefuls. In that role he said, "I'm kind of not as patient as you think one should be."

Having always been on the actor's side of auditions, Scott said the role of director was a learning experience, seeing the other side of things. "There are so many different reasons for choosing someone," he said.

He added that being in the local production gave him the rare opportunity to work with his fiancé, Jill Kocalis, who plays Maggie.
So there you have it - heart, soul, struggle, music, dancing, elation and heartbreak, all played out for you by people who have lived it time and again.

Share their struggles at the Performing Arts Center starting Saturday night. Santa Clarita Valley audiences should be aware the production will be performed as written and contains adult language and content.


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