Singular Sensation: UATD presents ‘A Chorus Line’
The University of Alabama’s Department of Theatre and Dance has set the bar yet again. This time it did so with a production that not only told a story to its audience, but also reminded many of its cast members why they chose to pursue life on the stage.
By: Angel McLellan
“A Chorus Line” gives audiences a glimpse into the world and lives of performers—the script details the stories of real actors, and touches on various pertinent issues surrounding the theatre community. All of the characters on stage just so happen to love the exact same thing. Ironically, it’s one of the only things they all have in common.
This real life representation of an audition follows each character putting everything they’ve got on the line in order to get cast in the chorus of a show. They individually share their life stories, explaining to viewers how people from various backgrounds can find community among others who are simply fighting for the same dream.
“More than anything else, I believe this show is about fighting for your passions and dreams,” said Bailey Blaise Mariea, a senior musical theatre major who played the role of Sheila. “Regardless of the obstacles and insecurities that tend to get in the way, at the end of the day we are defined by what we love.”
Sheila represents the time limit on dreams—she is the most experienced dancer in the group, but isn’t getting cast and begins to come to terms with having to say goodbye to her passion. Mariea said she found a strong connection with her character and that it was difficult not to empathize with Sheila. After about a year of questioning if she should continue pursuing a career in theatre, Mariea thought she had entirely lost passion for the art form.
“The more I dug into the role of Sheila and the more I was listening to the other characters’ stories, I had a sort of epiphany that I can’t even really explain,” she said. “It’s as if I found the best parts of myself through rehearsing this show, and being a part of this show with this particular cast and crew has made me fall back in love with musical theatre.”
The energy that this cast omits while performing is moving; as students, performers and artists, they go through the motions of auditioning every single day. Jonathan Bryant, a sophomore musical theatre major who played the role of Mike, said that every move he makes is another audition to be judged. His character reveals that he learned to dance by watching his sister, and prides himself on being able to pick up tricks and dancing with very little difficulty. This trait, one that Bryant says he shares with Mike, is represented through the song “I Can Do That.”
“The same thing happened to me when I started dancing,” he said. “I love to dance, act and sing, and I need to treasure it while I can because there will come a day when I won’t be able to do it anymore.”
Bryant explained that he admires a particular character in the show because of the humility she exhibits despite her skill level. Cassie is an exceptional performer who has been pushed to showcase her star-like qualities, but after a couple years without a job she starts to wonder if she is really any more special than anyone else on the line.
“It takes a lot of courage to do whatever it takes to work,” Bryant said. “Even if it means going back to being in the ensemble, which does not get a lot of spotlight.”
One of the token numbers of this musical entitled “What I Did For Love” describes the obstacles that come with pursuing your passion. This resonated with Carli Hardon, a junior musical theatre major who played the role of Diana. A Puerto Rican girl from ‘The Bronx,’ Diana has had to overcome self-doubt and the adversity that came with being a minority in the 1970s. Hardon said she has lived her character’s story, and that this is the first show where she has felt such a connection to the message.
“[Diana] puts up a lot of walls and gives off this confident persona, when really there are so many things that scare her,” Hardon said. “She finds her strength when she’s in this environment. It’s important to think about how performers can come together, no matter how different they are, and create a masterpiece.”
In the end, Diana is the only one who can put into words what the others are struggling to say–she articulates how all dancers feel when trying to find their alternatives. Mariea believes that when you love theatre more than you hate the endless obstacles keeping you from performing, it is simply out of the question to throw in the towel.
“Playing a character who is so similar to myself has allowed me to really explore this show in an intimate way,” Mariea said. “Show business is hard, but there is nothing else on this planet I would rather be doing. It’s worth it—you just have to want to be doing this badly enough that you are willing to endure whatever is thrown at you.”
You don’t have to be a performer to get the same message from this show that these students did. We are all willing to put ourselves on the line for something, and that is what makes every audience member feel connected to this story.
“I believe in the power of acting, singing, dancing and storytelling,” Mariea said. “What we are doing with this show serves a greater purpose, and taking part in all of this is nothing short of an incredible gift.”