A Chorus Line
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante
Originally conceived, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett

October 14 at 7:30pm
October 15 & 16 at 8 PM
October 16 & 16 at 2 PM
Mendelssohn Theatre

newsletter | press release | program | photographs

From our Newsletter
A typical audition notice will read as follows: Looking for four women, four men for tight dancing chorus. Must have extensive dance experience. Bring 16 measures of a song, a monologue and be prepared to dance.

On Broadway, an actor's first hurdle is to pass the thank-you line and actually be allowed to audition. In "A Chorus Line," director Zach's audition is something much more. Once he has chosen the seventeen finalists, he asks the aspiring choristers to show him more than just what they can do - he wants to know who they are. Where did they come from, what made them want to dance - what are their hopes, dreams, fears and disappointments?

Once they get over the shock of Zach's demand and realize he's very serious about his request, we begin meet various theatre "gypsies." First hesitantly, then in an increasing torrent of self-discovery, the stories of the dancers begin to unfold: Cassie, who has been a star but now can't find work and is happy just to be back in the chorus; Paul, a homosexual Puerto Rican who is searching for dignity as well as a job; Connie, who at four-foot ten knows she'll be able to work for a long time - as a child; Val, the drop-dead beauty who reveals that she wasn't always that way; and Sheila, the thirty-year old cynic who has learned the hard way that she wasn't cut out to be a ballerina.

When "A Chorus Line" debuted in 1975, it was a radical departure from the typical Broadway show. Instead of a show that evolved a story where each event led to the next, "A Chorus Line" was, as composer and lyricist Maury Yeston described it, "a form in which a series of monologues linked by an idea could support an evening of theater." The original idea was Michael Bennett's, a veteran chorus dancer and choreographer. He gathered a group of Broadway dancers and talked to them about their hopes and the problems they had encountered pursuing a life on the Broadway stage. The over 40 hours of tape was eventually boiled down to the original reality show, "A Chorus Line." The show was workshopped for a year, a process that is standard for today's Broadway-bound musicals, but was relatively unknown in the 70s. What resulted was one of the most beloved musicals of all time.

"A Chorus Line" ran for 6,137 performances and for some time was the longest running musical in history. The show garnered numerous awards, including nine Tony Awards in 1976 and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Featuring music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, almost every song in "A Chorus Line" is familiar to audiences: "What I Did For Love," "One," "Nothing," "Dance: Ten Looks: Three," and "I Can Do That."

- Rachel Francisco

Press Release
Ann Arbor - The University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department presents "A Chorus Line," the Broadway sensation that has had continued influence on the structure and design of American musical theatre. "A Chorus Line" plays October 14 at 7:30 PM, October 15, & 16 at 8 PM, and October 16 & 17 at 2 PM at the Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor. A critical and audience success, the musical offers a backstage look at the process of casting a show and the hardships of a performer's life.

Choreographer Michael Bennett conceived of "A Chorus Line" as a tribute to a dancer's life. Bennett recorded over 40 hours of conversations with Broadway gypsies (a theatrical term for chorus dancers) to compile the stories that make up the musical. Bennett worked with playwright/novelist James Kirkwood and former dancer Nicholas Dante to organize and solidify the book; Academy award winner Marvin Hamlisch composed the music and Broadway newcomer Edward Kleban wrote the lyrics. Their combined work, including some great one-liners by an un-credited Neil Simon, resulted in a work that blended all elements of musical theatre seamlessly.

In contrast to many musicals of the time, "A Chorus Line" is a series of montages that together form a story line - a concept musical. Bennett utilized elements of film through stage dissolves, close-ups, and wipes along with mirrors to bring focus to the individual stories. The musical also differed from shows at the time due to its intense and long period of workshops prior to opening the production, a structure made possible by the support of Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival. A common practice today, the concept of using workshops to develop a work before opening was an invention that would ultimately revolutionize the way musicals are produced.

Opening at the New York Shakespeare Festival on April 16, 1975, "A Chorus Line" was an immediate hit, transferring to Broadway on July 25. The show won nine Tony Awards in 1976 including best musical, score, book, direction, and choreography. Additionally, it earned five Drama Desk Awards, the Outer Critics Circle Award, three Obie Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The show reached a pinnacle in 1983, becoming the longest running show on Broadway at 3,389 performances, which earned it a special Tony Award. Bennett re-staged the musical for the landmark performance to feature current and past members of the Broadway cast as well as the multiple touring productions. The highlight of the evening featured all 338 dancers on stage for the finale. A Chorus Line would ultimately run for 6,137 performances, over 15 years, closing April 28, 1990. It would hold its title as the longest running show on Broadway until 1997.

Guest director and choreographer Kerry Casserly was a member of the Broadway cast during the show's long run, including playing Kristine at the show's record breaking 3,389th performance. She also toured with the show both nationally and internationally playing a variety of roles including Judy, Cassie, and Kristine. "'A Chorus Line' changed my career because I was so fulfilled doing the show it was hard to move on to any 'chorus' part. The challenge of working for Michael Bennett and making him happy was a thrill and a destiny," states Casserly. Casserly has previously restaged the musical at New York University and the Universities of Townson, Maryland, and Madison, Wisconsin. "'A Chorus Line' is about real people. Everyone in life knows what it's like to have to prove themselves and they know how it feels to win and lose & but the message is we are all innately 'special.'"

Joining Casserly on the artistic staff is assistant director and choreographer Billy Johnstone. Cynthia Kortman Westphal, an assistant professor in the Musical Theatre Department is music director. Arthur Ridley, a staff member with University Productions, whose work was last seen in "Oklahoma!" designed the set. Christianne Myers, an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama serves as costume coordinator. Jaime Burke, an undergraduate in the Department of Theatre and Drama, makes her mainstage debut as lighting designer and Mark Gordon, whose work was last heard in "Guys and Dolls," serves as sound designer.
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CAST (Hometown): Whitney Bashor (Bettendorf, IA), Thomas Berklund (Middleton, WI), Nick Blaemire (Bethesda, MD), Jamie Cooper (Olympia, WA), Felipe Gonzalez (Akron, OH), Anne Horak (De Pere, WI), Dave Hull (Cincinnati, OH), Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Detroit, MI), Justin Keyes (San Jose, CA), Chelsea Krombach (Brookfield, WI), Kate Loprest (Deerfield, IL), Jessica Blair Lukasik (Chicago, IL), Erin Mcgrath (Geneva, IL), Alex Michaels (New York, NY), Mara Newbery (Louisville, KY), Josh Rouah (Miami, FL), Jennifer Sese (Cincinnati, OH), Alexis Sims (Birmingham, AL), Dani Spieler (Scarsdale, NY), Brian Spitulnik (Potomac, MD), Daniel Taylor (Los Angeles, CA), Paige Wheat (Houston, TX), Jacob Wilson (Pittsburgh, PA), Helene Yorke (Los Angeles, CA), Michael Zahler (New York, NY), Eli Zoller (Huntington Woods, MI)

- Kerianne M. Tupac

Click here to view the A Chorus Line program as a PDF file

Production Photographs

Jaime Burke, Lighting designer Jaime Burke and Amy Duffy, stage manager

Cynthia Kortman Westphal, Musical Director and the orchestra Director Kerry Casserly with the cast

"Opening - I hope I get it" The line

Thomas Berklund as Greg Jessica Lukasik as Bebe, Paige Wheat as Judy, Justin Keyes as Richie

Kate Loprest as Diana Brian Spitulnik as Mike

Micahel Zahler as Bobby Anne Horak as Sheila

"At the Ballet" Chelsea Krombach as Maggie, Anne Horak, and Jessica Lukasik Erin McGrath as Kristine and Nick Blaemire as Alan - "Sing"

Dave Hull as Mark Jennifer Sese as Connie

Justin Keyes Whitney Bashor as Val

Alexis Sims as Cassie "Music and the Mirror"

Daniel Taylor as Paul "One" - Cast

Alexis Sims and Eli Zoller as Zach Eli Zoller

"What I did for Love" Cutting the Line