A Chorus Line: Where the Audition Meets the Stage

Following a heartbreaking discussion about the insecurity and limits of working as a dancer, Kiarah Hortance ’17, playing a Puerto Rican girl, Diana Morales, moves across the stage and clasps hands with other cast members as she sings “What I Did for Love,” a song about having no regrets and not giving up what she loves. Despite having her name called initially for elimination, this turns out to be a mistake, and Hortance is ultimately one of the eight auditioners chosen for the Chorus Line in the play, “A Chorus Line.”

“I’m also Puerto Rican. In terms of acting, I’ve never played a role that is also Puerto Rican… It was really cool for me to connect to [Diana] in that way. I really like her because she actually sings my favorite songs in the musical [like] “What I Did for Love” at the end. It’s a cast favorite so I feel really honored to get to do those songs,” said Hortance.

This scene is a pivotal moment in “A Chorus Line,” this year’s annual winter musical, directed and choreographed by Erin Strong, Instructor in Theater and Dance, and musically directed by Dr. Abigail Siegfried, Instructor in Music. The show, featuring 27 performers, will be performed this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

“The choice to do this one was solely theater department teachers, so Ms. Strong and Dr. Siegfried; they started working together in “Hairspray” last year, and that was the first time they’d ever collaborated, and I think that kind of sparked something in them both that they were supposed to work together…, and so they were like, ‘We have to do this again!’ ” said Sabrina Appleby ’17, who plays Cassie Ferguson.

“A Chorus Line,” originally performed on Broadway in 1975, tells the story of a group of dancers and singers auditioning for their spot on a chorus line, taking the audience behind the scenes of the audition process.

“ ‘A Chorus Line’ seems like the perfect show to do right now because our dance program is expanding so much and so we have so many dancers right now. It’s the perfect time to do the show; it is pretty dance intense… There’s also a lot of seniors in the production, and I think it says something about, you know we’re all kind of getting ready to leave, and there’s this idea of community and becoming [one]. The last number is called One, and it’s becoming one, one body that works together in that way,” said Appleby.

After the rest of the auditioners follow the director’s assistant Larry, played by Jackson Diodati ’20, offstage, Appleby begs the director Zach, played by Ed Elson ’17, for a chance to dance through her solo, “The Music and the Mirror.” Half singing and half dancing, Appleby turns and jumps, doing pirouettes and backbends in front of the five mirrors onstage, which slowly move to form a semicircle around her.

“ ‘The Music and the Mirror’ [is] basically like, all I need is the music and a mirror and a chance to dance, and that’s exactly how I feel, so it’s definitely really empowering for me to kind of be singing that kind of song and feel so deeply about what I’m singing, and really relate to Cassie… It’s a really pivotal moment for Cassie when she has this epiphany, like, ‘Gosh, why would I ever want to do anything else, like dance is all I want to do,’ [and] the dancing has to be very personalized for each person that plays Cassie, [so] Ms. Strong and I have been working on the choreography for that solo,” said Appleby.

Interrupting Henry Crater ’20, playing Mark Anthony, in his rapid explanations of self-misdiagnosed gonorrhea, Marianne Bautista ’20, as Connie Wong, loudly interrupts in anger at her height. She speaks about the lengths she’s gone to get taller including hanging from a pole to stretch herself.

“My favorite part about my character would have to be [that] whenever she talks, there’s a little background music to it. It’s not that noticeable, but every time I have a big line, or even in my song, there’s a little bit of upbeat background music, and I just love that about her,” said Bautista.

As the auditioners stand back after performing a group number, Diodati launches into a brisk tap solo. Bouncing between characters belting out their inner thoughts, Diodati jumps down into a split and immediately springs back up.

“I got to make [the choreography] myself…It’s hard because in a musical you have to exaggerate and make everything big and fun to watch; that’s hard to do as a tap dancer. I also don’t normally choreograph, but I pulled through,” said Diodati.

For Strong, “A Chorus Line” was the best choice for the winter musical not only because of the content of the musical but also given the culture of pursuing one’s passions that remains prevalent at Andover.

“What appealed to us were the stories that get told about the people to go beyond the resume, that they all have individual journeys. We thought that was fitting given the culture of our school right now where we’re really encouraging students to share their personal stories… We felt that students could relate to this notion of pursuing a passion… and the hardships that go along with that. Certainly the competitive nature of Andover is very similar to the competitive nature of an audition. Between those two things, we thought it would be a very fitting show for the community,” said Strong.