The University of Northern Colorado’s spring musical, “A Chorus Line”, jumped onto the stage March 5-9. Directed by Head of and Professor of Dance Monte Black, the cast consisted of students studying in the School of Theatre, Arts and Dance. “A Chorus Line” is based on the lives and experiences of Broadway dancers in the 1970’s. The story focuses on a group of dancers at an intense open call chorus audition.
Senior double musical theatre and music education major Kaylin Bailey played the anxious but bubbly Kristine, one of the 18 dancers in the audition. For her, she found both joy and challenges in creating this character.
“Kristine is a girl who knows what she is capable of and of what she can accomplish,” Bailey said. “Her biggest problem is her anxiety, it blocks her from being able to show people who she is and the talent she possesses. The most challenging part about the show is finding new ways to stay engaged in what is happening in front of us. The entire cast is on the stage through pretty much the whole show.”
Junior musical theatre major Ethan Walker played Mark Anthony, a new dancer to the business.
“He represents innocent and the dream of acting from a naive point of view,” Walker said.
He also notes the choreography challenges as his favorite part of the experience.
“This is my first show that has been dance heavy and has challenged me in the best ways: Memorization wise and physically,” Walker said.
“A Chorus Line” also featured a multitude of actors who play dancers who are rejected after the opening number. As cut dancers, they also provided background vocals as well as understudied multiple principal roles, an impressive feat for such a physically and vocally demanding show. For Jessie Carl, a junior musical theatre major, she found being a part of this production allowed her to get out of her comfort zone.
“The dancing is the most intense I’ve ever had in a show,” Carl said, who also covers Judy, Sheila, and Kristine. “But I’m always surprising myself with how much I am actually capable of, and this rehearsal process showed me how good I can really be. And how much I can push myself!”
Carl’s diligence and hard work paid off mid-show weekend as she was asked to step in to play Kristine for a matinee performance.
For Rebecca Steiner, who played cut dancer Vicki, she found her challenge through understudying her three principal roles of Val, Diana, and Connie.
“It was insanely difficult to learn three completely different tracks, but it is something that I can now have on my resume and use to get jobs in the future,” said Steiner, a sophomore musical theatre major. “I have gained huge respect for people that are Swings or Understudies in the industry.”
For Zach Bane, playing “Wrong Arms Roy” as well as understudying Mike, Mark, and Paul, came with lots of gratitude and rewards.
“The most rewarding part was when I got to see myself and the rest of the cast go up in a flash of light for the iconic finale of ‘One,’” Bane said. “‘A Chorus Line’ has the most iconic choreography in musical theatre canon. The opening song is my favorite to dance because of the brilliant trumpets in the score.”
For the majority of the cast, the show stopping finale ‘One’ was their favorite number to perform. It featured the entire cast in dazzling costumes and perfected, synchronized choreography.
“‘One’ is another one of those musical theater numbers that every actor should be able to perform at least once,” Steiner said.
Because of how much prestige “A Chorus Line” holds for musical theatre performers, it means a great deal for college students to drill and have the opportunity to perform the choreography.
“It’s a dream come true for a musical theatre nerd,” Carl said.
When asked why audiences will appreciate “A Chorus Line”, the conversation focused on the entertainment industry and how difficult it can be for artists to find work in the real world.
“What other show consists of a real audition process on stage?” Steiner said. “As an audience member, you find yourself rooting for a character to get cast by the end of the show. If they don’t, you get a glimpse into the reality of what actors go through almost daily.”
For most adults trying to make their mark in the real world, the fear of rejection and being unsuccessful is ever present.
“We’ve all been in the exact positions that the characters have been in,” Carl said. “Even if you aren’t in show business, any time you’re waiting to hear back about a job offer, or a college acceptance, it’s the same feeling.”
For director Monte Black, a full time professor teaching in the School of Theatre Arts and Dance as well as the coordinator of the dance minor program, he had many words of wisdom as well as praise for his hardworking cast.
“This group is so committed to the piece and I am very proud of their work from beginning to end,” Black said. “They have had to memorize and practice a lot of movement for the dances.”
He also calls to attention the importance of the ensemble members as well as the design/technology department.
“They return for the finale and sing background vocals from offstage for us – they are also understudies for all the characters and they have been fantastic and very committed as well,” Black said. “I also enjoyed working with the Stage Management crew and the student designers (scenic, costumes, and lighting) who were all so professional in their work ethic.”
The inspiring work created by students from UNC’s Design and Technology program shone in this dazzling production. Sound design was created by Hannah Shutt, costume design was created by Mason Alexander Stanley, scenic design was created by Hunter Cole, lighting design was created by Amber N. Hahn, and Becca M. Hunt rounded the team out as Stage Manager.
As a professional dancer and choreographer with years of experience, he was in the same position that many students in the arts find themselves now.
“I made the choice to become a dancer while I was in undergraduate school,” Black said. “I knew I may never make a ton of money but could not see myself in any other kind of work.”
He also recalls the unifying theme behind “A Chorus Line”: Sacrifice for the passion of your art.
“I identify with many elements of this piece because any form of performance requires sacrifice, drive, and a love for the art form and I have certainly seen my fair share of sacrifice as I pursued dance – I have spent my life learning and practicing all the different ways one can move their body and have never tired of it,” Black said.
For Black, religion and dance fit hand in hand, providing him with an ever present place of joy and self discovery.
“I think of the dance studio as my ‘church’ – it is the place where I have felt the most joy, the most pain, and where I feel most myself,” Black said. “It is also the place where I feel the greatest connection to whatever otherworldly powers that may exist. Call it God, or the power of the universe, or universal collective consciousness but in the dance studio is where I find it.”
“A Chorus Line” ran from March 5-8 in the Langworthy Theatre.