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British Columbia

Musical theatre students reveal the hopes and dreams of A Chorus Line

It’s a long way from New York in the mid-70s to Vancouver in the mid-20s, but some things never change. Like the fear and pressure faced by the young dancers and singers in A Chorus Line.

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A chorus line

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When: February 2nd to 19th

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Where from: Waterfront Theater

Tickets: From $10 at studio58.ca

It’s a long way from New York in the mid-70s to Vancouver in the mid-20s, but some things never change. Like the fear and pressure faced by the young dancers and singers in A Chorus Line.

“I did dance auditions,” said Langara theater student Yana Vitkovic, who plays Val in Studio 58’s upcoming production of the classic musical.

“I was at this point. The really interesting thing about A Chorus Line is that a lot of dancers don’t like to talk. But Zack, the choreographer, Slash director, asks all of the characters to speak up and say who they are, where they’re from, and how they got into dancing. That was really interesting. I’ve never done that in a dance audition before.”

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With music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, the play follows a group of young performers as they try their hand at the chorus of a Broadway show. When it debuted on Broadway nearly 50 years ago, it was a smash hit. It received 12 Tony Award nominations and won nine, along with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976. Until Cats surpassed it in 1997, it was the longest-running production in Broadway history. A 1985 film starring Michael Douglas as Zach didn’t fare quite as well, garnering mixed reviews and only grossing half its budget.

The Studio 58 production will be directed by program director Courtenay Dobbie, with musical direction by Diane Speirs and choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt. It’s a show with many moving parts, including 29 roles, 19 of which speak, plus a live band.

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“It’s just so, so, so cool for the students to be able to sing along with a live orchestra like this,” Dobbie said. “It’s a great experience for them.”

Part of the reason Dobbie chose the show was because she knew the musical would play to the strengths of this year’s cohort.

“Yana’s class and the class below her happened to be a really strong group of dancers and singers. Sometimes that happens. And so I thought, ‘Now this will work. We need that level of movement and dance ability to do it.’”

“It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work, a lot of dancing and a lot of shapes and movements together,” Vitkovic said. “It’s not just the dance steps that we all have to learn, but the bigger picture and so many people in the cast.”

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Her education is dance and acting so singing is the scariest part for her. And as Val, she belts out one of the show’s true showstoppers, the raunchy “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three”, with the refrain “Tits and ass”.

“When I first did it in rehearsals I definitely felt a bit like ‘Whoooh,’ but my castmates are absolutely amazing. And I feel super comfortable in front of them and in front of the creative team that is so helpful. I’m quite related to Val in the sense that I’m very comfortable talking about bodies and I’m very comfortable in my body.”

Prior to the audition, Vitkovic had not seen the musical. She says she doesn’t find it outdated. Dobby agrees.

“It’s a piece from the ’70s, so it references movie stars and dancers of the time,” Dobbie said. “But that’s fleeting. It’s really about their human experience. We did a walkthrough there with the entire creative team last Sunday, and after I said to them, ‘God, is it me or is this musical still really speaking to you as an artist and just as a person about following? Your hopes and dreams?’ And they all said, ‘Yeah, totally.’ I was just thinking that while watching. It really stands the test of time. It’s still very rich.”

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