"A-Five, Six, Seven, Eight!": A New Chorus Lines Up For Broadway

News   "A-Five, Six, Seven, Eight!": A New Chorus Lines Up For Broadway The vamp was familiar. The pose was, too. The faces, however, were new.

From Top: Bob Avian and Deidre Goodwin; Charlotte D'Amboise and Michael Berresse.
From Top: Bob Avian and Deidre Goodwin; Charlotte D'Amboise and Michael Berresse. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The occasion of these impressions, which were registered in quick succession, was an April 26 event in which the ladies and gentlemen of the press were introduced to the actor-singer-dancers who will make up the "line" of hopefuls in the upcoming Broadway revival of the classic musical A Chorus Line.

The proceedings were brought to order by press agent John Barlow, who then introduced composer Marvin Hamlisch, who in turn passed the baton to producer John Breglio, who finally relinquished the floor to Bob Avian, the late Michael Bennett's longtime right-hand man and co-choreographer, who will pilot this first-ever Broadway revival.

It was Avian's pleasure to introduce the cast of characters whose aspirations, anxieties and hidden histories add up to the plot of the Bennett-Hamlisch-Edward Kleban-James Kirkwood-Nicholas Dante Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner. Each actor, upon hearing their name, ran to the lip of the stage dressed in ultra-70s outfits recognizable to anyone who owns a copy of the show's original poster or cast album, and then struck a specific, and dramatic, pose.

Once everyone was on stage, the famous vamp that leads into the showstopper "One" began. The performers then slowly—and not without a modicum of studied melodrama—made their way one by one to the line on the upstage floor until they all stood shoulder to shoulder. The music stopped and the cast simultaneously took up the poses seen in the above-mentioned poster and album cover (as well as in the permanent memory and dreams of musical theatre mavens everywhere).

After that, the press was unleashed upon the poor thespians, many of whom will be making their Broadway debuts in the show. Playbill.com corralled several of them, asking them two questions apiece: "Does A Chorus Line have a place in your personal or professional past?" and "How did you get the part?" Here are their answers:

Michael Berresse (Zach):

"I never saw it, but it was the first show I ever memorized, every word. I didn't realize until yesterday, it was always a show that I felt I should have done. Yesterday, when we were rehearsing and I first heard that famous vamp, my whole body went over in chills."

"It's different going in for such a historic piece, because you feel they have something they have in mind already. Baayork [Lee, who will re-stage the original choreography] is a slave driver in a great way. She's so specific and aggressive. Basically, every guy who has done a singing or dancing role on Broadway in the last 15 years was in the room. I got the sense right away that it was going to be a great job to do. Personally, I think they decided on me really quickly. They didn't say that, but by even the second time I went in they had me read opposite three of the different girls as Cassie, including Charlotte [D'Amboise]."

Alisan Porter (Bebe, who sings "At the Ballet")

"I've seen it only in high school, once. But my mother [Laura Klein] actually played Bebe in the first national company. That's the part I'm playing now. It's quite nostalgic and full-circle for my mom and my whole family. It's quite interesting. All her pictures are in this costume I'm wearing now."

"I auditioned first in L.A., and I was reading for Maggie. And then they asked me to learn the Bebe material. Then I came to New York and learned both parts for Bob [Avian] and he wanted to see me at the final callback for Bebe."

James T. Lane (Richie, "Gimme the Ball" section of "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love")

"My first exposure to A Chorus Line was the movie. I did the role [of Richie] three other times before that. One of first professional productions, for the Media Theatre for the Performing Arts, was as Richie. But this is whole new ball game, obviously."

"It took a while for me to get here. For five years, I had left the business. I was frustrated and down on my luck, really. I was waitering, trying to find myself. I had gotten to New York City, and my ego had gotten here before I did. Although I did well, I wasn't really secure in my heart. I had to go discover what I'm here to do. That discovery has led me back here with those show. This is my Broadway debut. They saw like 2,000 people. I had to audition three times. I went to an open call for Dianas and Pauls. I was like the pepper in a sea of salt. They kept me calling me back. They knew I had left the city. They asked me how I was, 'Are you OK?' I said I was, and they said, 'We'll have you back for the final callback.' I was like, 'Baby!'"

Natalie Cortez (Diana, who sings "Nothing," "What I Did for Love")?

"I've never been in it. I never got to see it live. It was my older sister that got me singing the songs. We had the cast album at home."

"My first audition was in July of 2005. I didn't know what I was walking into. I hadn't seen the stage show. I found out I got called back three months later. So I did a whole day. I did a private session with Baayork. I really learned the combination for real. It was like 9:30 AM to 6 PM that day. It was nuts, but it was amazing. Then the final callback at the Broadhurst, and I had to come back and sing again the next day. It was a total of four times…. I actually worked with Priscilla Lopez with The Mambo Kings when she did the workshop."

Jessica Lee Goldyn (Val, "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three")

"I first saw A Chorus Line when I was 10. I was doing it at a regional theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, which is where I'm from. They do it every spring. I was in the elimination scene when I was 10. I did it there many more years, and I actually got my Equity card doing a production of A Chorus Line with [original Broadway cast member] Donna Drake, who directed it. I was Val, and understudied Cassie. That was five, six months ago."

"When I auditioned, I knew the show. I went to the last open call. I went to a week's worth of callbacks and the final callback at the Broadhurst. Then I found out that day, after the audition. It took a week and a half."

Ken Alan (as Bobby)

"It was the first show I ever saw on stage, in Miami. My parents took me."

"The audition process was very brief for me. My first call was in January, here in New York, and they called me back two weeks later. I found out I had it later. I was quite surprised to find I had been cast."

Charlotte d’Amboise (Cassie, "The Music and the Mirror"):

"I think it has a special place in people's hearts. Well, these guys are so young, so maybe not. They were graduating high school. They saw the movie, which is funny to me, because my husband [Terrence Mann] was in the movie. But, yeah, I saw the show, and it meant something to me. I only saw it once and never saw it again. Never did the show. Seeing it was a big turning point in my wanting to be in the theatre."

"I auditioned about nine months ago. There were eight or nine of us auditioning for Cassie. We had to do the combination, a bit of the dance for 'The Music and the Mirror.' We also had to do the opening number, and the ballet combination. Then I got called back six months later and I had to work with the musical director for one day. Everybody was there. We had to do everything over again. It was a lot. Two days later, they called me. I was surprised. I didn't feel good about the second audition. It was cold and the stage was cement. I walked out of there thinking, 'Oh, whatever.'"

Members of the cast of <i>A Chorus Line</i>.
Members of the cast of A Chorus Line. Photo by Aubrey Reuben