A Chorus Out of Line
Auditioning for a Broadway show can be a mean, cold experience. It can also be electrifying. The show that quintessentially captures the intensity of the audition process is, of course, A Chorus Line. Seventeen performers survived the real-life tryouts for this new Broadway revival and now stand on the line eight times a week. On a crisp winter morning, these artists took a break from their busy performance schedule for this exclusive movmnt photo shoot. Amidst wardrobe changes, hair blowouts, and cups of coffee, the cast of A Chorus Line shared their stories.
Photos by Danelle Manthey – Text by Jennifer Polland
The original reality show is back on Broadway, serving up fresh doses of honesty and nostalgia. A Chorus Line is as deliciously cathartic and intoxicating today as it was in its 1975 debut. The new cast is peppy, sassy, and ambitious. But behind the smiling, confident faces there is vulnerability and the not-so-distant memories of struggling to make it in showbiz.
Ushered in with a new and vibrant cast, this musical about an intimate and competitive Broadway audition has aged quite gracefully. The music is still poignant, and the dancing, originally choreographed by Michael Bennett and restaged by Baayork Lee (who originated the role of Connie), is just as thrilling. Though the issues it tackles, such as plastic surgery and homosexuality, are not as risquÃ© as they once were, the show is relevant even now. With no massive sets or glitzy costumes to hide behind, the actors bare themselves on a naked stage, providing an intimate look into the lives of these seventeen characters. And like the characters in the show, this new generation of actors each has their own story to tell.
Michael Paternostro plays Greg Gardner, a witty, self-proclaimed East SideÂ gay man. Raised in a devout Roman Catholic family, this 39-year-old New Orleans native grappled with his own sexuality while growing up. “I always felt like I was an outsider in New Orleans,”Â Paternostro said. “I had to leave home to come out of the closet.”Â Today, Paternostro embraces Greg and his own homosexuality, bringing an authenticity to the role. “I think Greg is a bit defiant,”Â Paternostro remarks. “He’s brash and outspoken. He wears his gayness like a badge of honor.”Â
Even the most confident actor remembers what it was like to stand on that line “vulnerable, nervous, and unsure of what the future holds. Alisan Porter rose to pseudo-stardom as the adorable little girl in the 1991 film Curly Sue. Now, she fronts her own band, The Alisan Porter Project. Though she is pretty, young, talented, and successful, she is also unassuming. “You have some sense of celebrity, and then you come here and stand on that line and it’s gone,”Â the 25-yearold brunette told movmnt. Porter’s humility mimics that of her character, Bebe, who was always told that she was “special”Â but never pretty.
James T. Lane is a rare species: an African-American man on Broadway. Like his character Richie, Lane came from an underprivileged background, earned a scholarship to study the performing arts, and took to the stage. He identifies with Richie’s tenacity and energy, saying that they have that same “insatiable zest for life.”Â
Heather Parcells claims that she got her role as Judy Turner, a flighty goofball, because she is Judy. Like her character, Parcells is the class clown, spurring on anarchy backstage. “It’s as if Judy and I don’t have filters,”Â Parcells said â€œa statement that rang true when she began talking about menstruation a few minutes later. Each actor identifies with his or her character in some way. Tony Yazbeck is a deeply religious Christian who, like his character Al, values family, relationships, and dancing. Deirdre Goodwin, one of the few Broadway veterans in this production, relates to her character Sheila as a woman who is getting tired of the instability of show business and is looking towards the next chapter in her life. Jessica Lee Goldyn plays Val, a plastic surgery-obsessed vixen. Although the perky 20-year-old performer has never undergone cosmetic surgery, she relates to V’s honesty, humor, and courage.
All of the actors have one thing in common: they all remember the feeling of standing on that line, nervous and exposed as their fate is being decided. The emotions are raw and the characters are real. No single actor monopolizes the show and there are no weak links. Thirtyone years after its debut, A Chorus Line is still one singular sensation.