Competition is a part of life for everyone, no matter what the business, and people compete for many reasons. We also have to find ways to cope with the rejection that comes with competition, a challenge that can build character and determination.
These hard facts about life are portrayed in song and dance in the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line,” presented by Fuse Productions and Centre Dance at the State Theatre Aug. 7-9.
“A Chorus Line” is a celebration of the American stage musical, a tribute to the chorus dancers, the dedicated and talented young men and women who support and enhance the stars’ performance. The Pulitzer Prize-winning show, featuring a cast of local and professional actors, follows 17 dancers auditioning for eight spots in a Broadway show and is set on the bare stage of a theater.
“ ‘A Chorus Line’ is certainly one of the 10 greatest musicals ever produced,” Fuse Productions’ artistic director Richard Biever said. “The script, based on recordings of real Broadway dancers talking about their lives, the amazing score by Marvin Hamlisch and the seamless staging combine for a powerful and emotionally charged evening.”
“A Chorus Line” opened at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway on July 25, 1975. The musical was a box office smash; it won nine of its 12 Tony Award nominations. The original production ran for more than 6,000 shows through 1990, becoming the longest-running production in Broadway history until it was surpassed by “Cats” in 1997. It was the longest-running Broadway musical originally produced in the U.S. until it was surpassed by “Chicago” in 2011. It remains the sixth longest-running Broadway show ever.
“A Chorus Line” was conceived and originally directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, with a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Edward Kleban wrote the lyrics to Hamlisch’s compositions.
The show begins in the middle of an audition for an upcoming Broadway production. The formidable director, Zach, and his assistant choreographer, Larry, are putting the dancers through their paces. After a number of cuts, 17 dancers remain, including a young man named Paul. The director asks the dancers to introduce themselves, giving them a chance to reveal their pasts starting with early life experiences through adulthood. While on stage, Paul emotionally relives his childhood and high school experience, coming to terms with his manhood, homosexuality, and his parents’ reaction upon learning about his lifestyle.
Playing the role of Paul is Kevin Kulp, one of six actors hired from a New York City audition held in June. Originally from southern New Jersey, Kulp recently graduated from Allentown’s Muhlenberg College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theater. While in school, Kulp was a member of the ensemble of “Miss Saigon” and landed a role in “The King and I,” both at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.
Kulp said Paul is a dream role of his and he played the part a few months ago during the college’s Summer Music Theatre Festival.
“Paul is definitely introverted and one of the quiet actors on the line,” Kulp said. “He has had a rough childhood, which he has grown from and made him into who he is today.”
In the world of theater, Paul is known for a monologue that gives the show some depth and insight on the life of a chorus dancer.
“It’s about 15 minutes of just him onstage with no other actors, sets, dancing or other spectacle element,” Kulp said. “It’s a scary but thrilling piece to work on as an actor.”
For any actor, Kulp said going on auditions can be nerve-racking and frustrating, with the process often ending in rejection.
“It’s like going to four or five different interviews a week and not hearing back from any of them,” he said. “The given circumstance of the show is something us actors really understand and connect with,” Kulp said. “During the opening we sing, ‘God I hope I get it, I hope I get it!’ This is something actors actually think when we are constantly auditioning with hundreds of other actors, all trying for one job. The show is so easy to connect with because it’s about our lives as actors and this hard life of constant audition and constant rejection.”
What “A Chorus Line” provides for its audience members is insight on not only what it is like to dance in a chorus but also the lives of dancers and actors that might only be in the background of a show.
“Audiences can instantly relate to the need of the dancers to get the job (most of us at one time or another needed work), and can empathize with the stories each dancer relates about their lives” Biever said. “It’s a story about growing up and becoming part of something bigger than yourself.”