Baayork Lee Directs A CHORUS LINE at Pittsburgh CLO, Now thru 6/24
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by BWW News Desk
A Chorus Line, the powerful and emotion-filled musical about the trials and tribulations of forging a life in the theater, will play in Pittsburgh tonight, June 15 through June 24 at the Benedum Center. Directed and choreographed by original A Chorus Line cast member Baayork Lee, this bona fide Broadway hit features an incredible ensemble cast composed of exciting Broadway stars and Pittsburgh CLO veterans.
From the pen of legendary composer Marvin Hamlisch comes this Tony Award® and Pulitzer-Prize winning “singular sensation!” This backstage story of 17 aspiring dancers pairs heart-stopping, toe-tapping performances with soaring ballads, all against the backdrop of the ups and downs of a life in show business. An unforgettable musical for anyone who’s ever had a dream and put it all on the line, A Chorus Line’s iconic score features such classics as “What I Did for Love,” “One,” “I Hope I Get It,” and more!
Baayork Lee (Director/Choreographer) created the role of Connie in A Chorus Line and has performed in a dozen Broadway shows. Michael Bennett’s assistant choreographer on A Chorus Line, she has directed many national and international companies. Her directing credits include The King and I and Bombay Dreams (National Tours), R&H’s Cinderella (NYC Opera), Barnum (Australia), Carmen Jones (Kennedy Center), Porgy and Bess, Jesus Christ Superstar (European Tour), Gypsy and A New Brain. As a choreographer, she has choreographed productions of Cocoanuts, Camelot, Damn Yankees, Animal Crackers (Helen Hayes nomination), South Pacific, Goya, Sly and The Merry Widow, among others. She is the co-author of “On the Line: The Creation of A Chorus Line” and recipient of 2003 Asian Woman Warrior Award for Lifetime Achievement from Columbia College.
A Chorus Line, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, is based on the true stories of actual performers who came together to tell their tales during a series of taped workshops. They sold their stories to original director and choreographer Michael Bennett for one dollar each. Eight of these performers actually played their own characters in the original Broadway production.
A Chorus Line opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on July 25, 1975. It ran for 6,137 performances and currently holds the title of the fifth longest-running show in Broadway history. The original production was nominated for twelve 1976 Tony Awards and went on to win nine, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Donna McKechnie). A Chorus Line also won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
A film version of A Chorus Line was released by Columbia Pictures in 1985. The cast included Michael Douglas as Zach; Janet Jones, wife of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, as Judy Monroe; and Matt West, choreographer of the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, as Bobby. A Chorus Line has also enjoyed countless productions across the globe and was revived on Broadway in 2006. The audition process for the Broadway revival was chronicled in the 2008 documentary Every Little Step.
Kevin Curtis (Richie) previously appeared with Pittsburgh CLO in Hairspray and The Student Prince. He appeared in the National Tour of A Chorus Line and has also performed regionally with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, North Shore Music Theatre, Northern Stage and Paramount Theatre. Curtis is a graduate of AMDA NYC and The Baltimore School for the Arts.
Emily Fletcher (Sheila) has appeared in the Broadway and touring casts of numerous shows, including 42nd Street, The Producers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chicago and A Chorus Line (originating the role of Sheila in the first National Tour). She released two feature films this year and her television credits include “Gossip Girl” and Comedy Central’s “Jon Benjamin Has a Van.”
Nadine Isenegger (Cassie) counts the following Broadway shows to her credit: Pal Joey (Val), A Chorus Line (Lois/Cassie, Val u/s), 42nd Street (Peggy Sawyer), Kiss Me Kate, Follies and Cats (Victoria). Her National Tour credits include 42nd Street (Peggy Sawyer), Titanic (Edith), and Fame (Iris). Regional credits include: The Jack Cole Project, The Rocky Horror Show (Columbia), White Christmas (Judy), Damn Yankees (Lola), Contact (wife). Isenegger has also appeared on film and television in NBC’s “Smash,” “Sex & the City 2,” “Every Little Step,” “Sweet & Lowdown,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “All My Children,” “Another World” and “Guiding Light.”
Bryan Knowlton (Paul) made his Broadway debut in the 2008 revival of A Chorus Line and has also appeared in National Tours of Oliver! (Noah Claypole) and A Chorus Line. His regional credits include Hello, Dolly!, A Chorus Line (Paul), Children of Eden (Abel), West Side Story (Baby John) and The Who’s Tommy.
Denis Lambert (Greg) has performed on the New York stage in A Chorus Line (Broadway), Pipe Dream, Finian’s Rainbow (Encores!), Yank!, Zorba, Dying City and Getting Tall. His National Tour credits include White Christmas and The Producers. He has also performed regionally in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Biloxi Blues, Aspects of Love, Annie and Carnival. Lambert earned his BFA at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and is now making his Pittsburgh CLO debut.
Theo Lencicki (Al) is back “on the line” after doing the Japan tour of A Chorus Line last summer and will now be making his Pittsburgh CLO debut. His National Tour credits include Hairspray and Young Frankenstein. Select regional credits include: Altar Boyz (Luke), West Side Story (Big Deal) and Fiddler on the Roof. Lencicki earned his BA in Theatre at Penn State University.
Heather Parcells (Judy) appeared on Broadway in Wonderland (Madhatter/Queen of Hearts u/s), A Chorus Line (Judy) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Her National Tour credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie (Miss Dorothy u/s), Chicago (Velma Kelly) and Some Like it Hot (Sweet Sue u/s). She has performed regionally in Boeing Boeing (Gloria Hawkins), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jolene Oakes), Carousel (Julie Jordan) and Call Me Madam (Princess Maria). Parcells has also appeared on television in “Guiding Light” (Missy) and is a graduate of Florida State University joining Pittsburgh CLO for the first time.
Gina Philistine (Bebe) began her career with Pittsburgh CLO in the Pittsburgh CLO Mini-Stars program, performing in past Pittsburgh CLO productions of Fame, Oliver! and Annie. Since then, she has performed on Broadway in Saturday Night Fever and Bombay Dreams. Her National Tour credits include A Chorus Line and The Good-Bye Girl and she has also performed in productions of Evita, Little Shop of Horrors and Hot Mikado. She earned the Connecticut Critics Circle Award for “Morales” in A Chorus Line at Downtown Cabaret.
Shane Rhoades (Mike) has performed on Broadway in The Boy from Oz and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as well as off-Broadway in FAME. His National Tour credits include A Chorus Line, Chicago, West Side Story, Pippin and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Rhoades has also performed regionally in A Chorus Line (Mike), CATS (Rum Tum Tugger), West Side Story (Riff), The Music Man (Tommy Djilas), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Li’l Abner.
Emily Rice (Maggie) has performed in the National Tour of A Chorus Line (Vicki/Swing) and her regional credits include The Sound of Music (Maria) and Into the Woods (Cinderella). Rice earned her BFA in Musical Theatre from Elon University and makes her Pittsburgh CLO debut with A Chorus Line.
Gabrielle Ruiz (Diana) appeared on Broadway in In The Heights as well as performed in first National Tour of A Chorus Line (Diana). Select regional and New York credits include My One and Only (Edythe Herbert), High School Musical (Gabriella), A Christmas Carol, The Broadway Dolls, Make Mine Manhattan and Ghost (Mrs. Santiago). Her film and television credits include “One Life to Live” and “Sesame Street.” Ruiz earned her BFA at Oklahoma City University.
Alexzandra Sarmiento (Connie) returns to A Chorus Line after participating in the 2011 Japan tour, making her Pittsburgh CLO debut. She is a graduate of the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and currently studies at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance. Sarmiento is also the 2011 recipient of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts YoungArts in Dance – Modern.
Grant Turner (Zach) joins Pittsburgh CLO for the first time. His Broadway credits include the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line (Zach) and the original cast of Billy Elliot (u/s Older Billy). He has performed in touring productions of Chicago, Cats and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Originally from Australia, Turner has toured 17 countries in Tap Dogs and Steel City. He has also performed in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York and has appeared on the Tony Awards®.
Brandon Tyler (Larry) made his Broadway debut in Wicked and has performed in National Tours of A Chorus Line (Larry u/s Mike, Mark, Paul), Wicked and Cats (Tumblebrutus, u/s Mistoffelees). His other regional and concert credits include shows with NYCC Encores, Paper Mill, North Shore Music Theatre, AZ Theatre Co, Ballet Austin, Met Opera Ballet and dre.dance. Tyler has also appeared on television in “Gossip Girl,” “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live.”
Hardy Weaver (Bobby) appeared in the National Tours of A Chorus Line (Bobby) and CATS (Skimbleshanks). Weaver has also performed regionally at Seaside Music Theatre, Gateway Playhouse, Le Petit Theatre and Tulane Summer Lyric. He earned his BFA from Florida State University.
Jake Weinstein (Mark) returns to A Chorus Line for his Pittsburgh CLO debut after completing the 2011 Japan tour. His select off-Broadway and regional credits include Angelina Ballerina, Peter and the Wolf and Anything Goes. Weinstein recently graduated from NYU Gallatin.
Callan Bergmann returns to Pittsburgh CLO for his fourth season. He comes directly from the Off-Broadway hit Silence! The Musical. His other NYC credits include Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Encores!) and Lucky Guy (Off-Broadway), and he has also performed regionally at Paper Mill Playhouse, The Muny and NSMT. Bergmann is a graduate of Point Park University.
Chandler Farren recently finished her BA in Dance at Point Park University and will be appearing with Pittsburgh CLO for the first time.
Justin Lonesome joins Pittsburgh CLO for his third season. He has been seen in past CLO productions such as Oliver!, Curtains (2010) and Jesus Christ Superstar (2011). Lonesome received his BA in Musical Theatre from Point Park University in 2011 and has also been seen in several Point Park University works, including No Place To Be Somebody (Melvin Smeltz), Parade (Jim Conley), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Trevor Graydon) and Antigone (Messenger).
Connor McRory is a former Pittsburgh CLO Academy student. He is a rising sophomore at Penn State University, earning his BFA in Musical Theatre. His past Pittsburgh CLO Credits include The Who’s Tommy, Singin’ in the Rain and A Musical Christmas Carol.
Gabriella Sorrentino is a recent graduate of Point Park University with a B.F.A. in Dance. She studied and trained at Professional Performing Arts High School/Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York City.
Lauren Zapko returns to the Benedum for her third Summer Season with Pittsburgh CLO. She has performed at Maltz Jupiter and North Carolina Theatre and has also appeared in numerous commercials and films.
Michael Bennett (Director/Choreographer) (1943-1987) was an American musical theater director, choreographer, writer and dancer. In total, he was nominated for 18 Tony® Awards throughout his lifetime, winning seven for both choreography and direction. Bennett began his Broadway career as a dancer in the 1961 production of Comden and Green’s Subways are for Sleeping and as a choreographer for the 1966 production of A Joyful Noise. His other notable Broadway credits as a choreographer include Promises, Promises; Follies and Company, among countless others. Bennett also directed and co-choreographed the 1981 Broadway production of Dreamgirls with Michael Peters. His involvement with A Chorus Line is arguably his most prominent achievement; he was originally invited to the workshops as an observer, but soon took charge and eventually took on the roles of director and choreographer for the original Broadway production, becoming a chief player in the show’s initial conception.
James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante (Book) James Kirkwood (1924-1989) and Nicholas Dante (1941-1999) are best known for collaborating on the book of A Chorus Line. Kirkwood is also the author of the comedic play Legends! and several novels including P.S. Your Cat Is Dead!, Good Times/Bad Times, Some Kind of Hero, Hit Me with a Rainbow and the autobiographical work There Must Be a Pony. Dante was a dancer and writer who began his career appearing in choruses, on television and in nightclubs. In addition to A Chorus Line, he also authored the screenplays Fake Lady and Jolson Tonite. The character of Paul, for which Sammy Williams won a 1976 Tony® Award, was based primarily on Dante’s life.
Marvin Hamlisch (Composer) A graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and Queens College, Marvin Hamlisch is one of only 11 people to earn all four major American entertainment awards for his unprecedented work as a composer and musical director of innumerable films, concerts and theatrical productions: he holds four Emmys, four Grammys, three Academy Awards and a Tony Award®, and he is one of only two people to ever earn each of these awards plus a Pulitzer Prize. He is also the recipient of three Golden Globe awards. His scores appear in more than forty motion pictures including The Way We Were, The Sting, Sophie’s Choice, Ordinary People, The Swimmer, Three Men and a Baby, Ice Castles, Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Save the Tiger and The Informant! In addition to A Chorus Line, he has also composed the music for Broadway’s They’re Playing Our Song, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success. He currently holds the position of principal Pops conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony and Pops, Seattle Symphony and San Diego Symphony.
Edward Kleban (Lyrics) (1939-1987) was an American composer and lyricist. A graduate of Columbia Univeristy, Kleban is best known for his award-winning work on A Chorus Line, for which he received a Tony Award®, Pulitzer Prize, Olivier Award, Drama Desk Award, and an Obie Award. In addition to A Chorus Line, many of his songs were featured in Phyllis Newman’s The Madwoman of Central Park West and A Class Act, a 2001 Broadway production that posthumously chroniclEd Kleban’s life through song. He was also a teacher at the BMI Musical Theater Workshop and he worked to establish the Kleban Foundation, which awards $100,000 to the most promising librettist and lyricist in American musical theater each year.
The performance schedule is Friday, June 15 at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, June 16 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, June 17 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, June 19 at 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday, June 20 at 8:00 p.m.; Thursday, June 21 at 8:00 p.m.; Friday, June 22 at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, June 23 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, June 24 at 2:00 p.m..
Tickets are available online at pittsburghCLO.org, by calling 412-456-6666 or at the Box Office at Theater Square. Groups of 10 or more enjoy exclusive discounts and specialty packages. Call our Group Sales Hotline at 412-325-1582 for more information. Visit pittsburghCLO.org for further information.
Photo Credit: Marc Bryan-Brown.