As much as any show about theater, “A Chorus Line” is a musical that focuses on and resonates with performers.
Set in a casting call for a Broadway production, the show was developed from recorded sessions with Broadway dancers in the 1970s talking about their lives and struggles, forming the basis for the characters, from young and hopeful performers to a veteran trying to get her foot back in the door.
Topping the cast of The Lexington Theatre Company’s production of the show, which plays this weekend at the Lexington Opera House, are four seasoned professionals who have all been in “Chorus Line” productions at some point in their careers. The most frequent flier is Denis Lambert, who has been in five editions, starting with the same Broadway revival Lexington Theatre Company artistic director Lyndy Franklin Smith was in.
Given their experience, we asked the actors to talk to us about their perspective on the show and what it means to them. Here are excerpts from their comments.
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Anne Horak, Sheila: I did the show in college (University of Michigan), and I don’t even know how well informed you are at that point, because this show is about these people’s livelihoods. When you’re in school, you’re a student, but for these people now, you need the job, for your money, to eat your food, for your health insurance — you’re actually needing a job to survive. We understand that now that we are professionals in this business, we understand the implications of these auditions and how a job is actually your paycheck.
Now, we’ve both (she and Eloise Kropp) been on Broadway, and it’s a great job, but it still ends up being a job, and it sort of loses that pinnacle, “This is it!” You realize every show ends, and then you need the next show. It’s definitely fun revisiting the show being more informed, as the characters are in the show.
Eloise Kropp, Val: When I did Val the first time, I was 18, hadn’t moved to New York yet, still in college (Oklahoma City University). Now, on the backend of the character, I’ve been in New York, I’ve been to these auditions and been in shows, and I understand what the character is actually talking about because I’ve been through it.
Why ‘Chorus Line’ can hit everyone is each person can find a character to relate to, and that changes throughout your entire life. ... That’s why the show is so beautiful and people keep coming back to it, because you never know which character is going to pull your heartstrings, and who you’ll relate to each time you see it.
Horak: It’s interesting too, exploring the relationship between Sheila and Zack (the imperious director), because she knows him, they go way back, as opposed to some of the other characters who don’t know him at all. Even now, there are times I’ll go into auditions with someone I know well, and it’s like ‘OK, Anne Horak,” as opposed to a director I haven’t worked with. ... It’s about your comfort level with the person in the power position.
Sarah Bowden, Cassie: I did it in Austria three years ago, and about five or seven years previous to that, I hadn’t really been dancing. I was still in the business and performing lead roles and singing and acting. But actually dancing and training, I had stopped doing. Then I auditioned (in Austria) and got the job, and (the director) saw that I was a dancer, and she was like, “I’m going to get it back out of you.” So, for me, my personal experience with Cassie as a character who has also taken a break from performing and is coming back into this environment, in this audition room with these younger performers, it was really interesting doing this Cassie dance, which is basically a dance where you are finding your joy of dancing again — looking in the mirror and thinking, “Oh my God, what happened to my body?” and here’s my foot and there’s my arm, and it feels so good to move it. Those are the things that are going through your head that were very real for me, and happening in that moment.
So for me, I didn’t have to do much as an actress. I just had to do what’s there.
You get cast in the place you’re meant to be. You fall into the character you’re meant to be playing.
Denis Lambert, Zack: It’s certainly taught me something different every time I’ve done it, and my appreciation for it deepens every time. My initial experience was difficult in a number of ways, and I thought I was done with “A Chorus Line.” But it’s become this gift that just keeps unwrapping and a huge part of my life.
The show explores what was going on for me, which is, “Once you achieve a dream, what’s your next dream? And what’s after that?” I was also injured on the tour (first national tour of the Broadway revival), and it’s hard to play that scene of “What will you do when your can’t dance anymore?” without exploring those questions.
The heartbreak and reward that is in the show has definitely proved true for me.
IF YOU GO
‘A Chorus Line’
What: The Lexington Theatre Company’s production of the classic musical composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Edward Kleban and book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 2, 3; 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 4; 1 p.m. Aug. 5.
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.