If you walked into Watters Theater in the Fine Arts Building a week before opening night, you might hear a group of three people singing a song from “The Cheetah Girls,” or see students doing jumping jacks and exercises in unison, as if they were in a workout video. It isn’t until you hear a booming voice yell “places for top of show” that you’d realize you were actually at a rehearsal for “A Chorus Line.”
“Any group of people being forced to do push-ups and sit-ups like we were together just grows as a group,” said Danielle Nigro, a sophomore majoring in theater, who plays Cassie in the mainstage production.
“A Chorus Line” takes place during an audition, with each cast member playing a dancer who hopes to land a role in the chorus of a show. Elizabeth Mozer, an assistant professor of theater and the director of the show, said she knew it was the right choice for this season’s musical after hearing her students’ enthusiasm.
“It’s a really big show and it’s a really hard show to pull off,” Mozer said. “But I started to look around and I thought ‘There are people here who can do this show, I know it.’ So we said ‘Let’s go for it,’ and I’m really glad we did.”
The show opens with a display of impressive dance talent, as the audience gets to watch the cast show off its skills before delving deeper into each dancer’s life. Mozer likened the anxious nature of the show to a reality show that brings everyone in on the usually private auditions of the theater world.
While the dancers’ lives are tied together by the pressure they feel during the audition process, the show explores their backgrounds through a combination of funny and moving scenes.
“There are so many hysterical parts of the show, and then some really deep, heart-wrenching moments,” Nigro said. “It goes through everything and I think it’s a really great experience for the audience.”
Mozer said that the musical’s themes wouldn’t resonate with only those in the theater world, but from anyone who dedicates themselves to their ambitions.
“It’s the story of people who are passionate about achieving their dreams, living a life that’s filled with their vocation, dedicating themselves to their art,” Mozer said. “I think it’s universal in that so many of us make the kinds of choices [that involve] sacrifice, commitment, hard work and the pursuit of a dream.”
While the themes are universal, it’s easy to see the strength of the actors’ connections to the characters, as they find similarities between their own experiences working in theater and the experiences portrayed in the show. The lives of the characters mirror the lives of the actors.
“There are definitely a lot of parallels between the process of actually auditioning for the show and the fact that the show in itself is an audition,” said Jade Cayne, a senior majoring in management, who plays Rickie. “I think that’s what’s so cool about it. There’s that feeling of realism to it as well.”
With subject matter ranging from plastic surgery to sexual abuse, the show will bring audiences on an unforgettable emotional journey. The actors take on demanding roles, with the hope of providing a truly memorable show. Matthew Pedersen, a junior double-majoring in psychology and music, who plays Paul, said his favorite part of performing is seeing the reactions of the audience.
“To experience an audience member’s raw emotion, whether they’re crying or laughing, it’s just unlike any other experience in the world,” Pedersen said.
For Pedersen, working on a dance-heavy show has been a rewarding new experience.
“I’ve always done musicals where it’s singing and acting first,” Pedersen said. “It’s great to have dancing as a primary and to learn so much from it.”
Courtney Schiff, an undeclared sophomore and the assistant choreographer, has enjoyed watching the performers grow through the process of rehearsing for the show.
“They’re all different and they’re all talented in so many different ways,” Schiff said. “Not all of them are dancers. To watch them have grown throughout this process is cool.”
While the amazing dance numbers, sentimental and hilarious songs and passion shown by the performers will be sure to please, audiences will be most impressed by the honest experience that the actors have created.
“The show is so unique because everything that everyone is seeing is very truthful and natural,” Nigro said.
The theater department’s production of “A Chorus Line” will be on stage at 8 p.m. on Nov. 14, 15, 21 and 22, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Nov. 23.