Steamboat students bring ‘A Chorus Line’ to the local stage
Steamboat Springs — Opening Thursday, Steamboat Springs High School’s production of “A Chorus Line” will bring to the local stage all the timeless music, dance and soul-searching of the 1975 Broadway hit but in a version slightly more censored and family-friendly than the original.
Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the high school. Tickets are available at the high school and All That Jazz in downtown Steamboat Springs. They are $10 for adults, $8 for students and $4 for students with activity passes.
Musical director Wendy Dillon said she chose the show because of the songs and because the story line allowed her to put the spotlight on numerous singers.
“We have such great singers that I wanted to be able to feature more than just the traditional one or two leads,” Dillon said.
“A Chorus Line” also was the first Broadway play that Dillon saw as a high school student herself while visiting New York City.
The show, which won numerous Tony awards and the Pulitzer for Drama, tells the story of a group of Broadway hopefuls at an audition with an unorthodox director who asks them to talk about who they are — their hopes, fears and frustrations.
The large group of hopefuls is narrowed down to 17 actors in the opening number, and then to four at the conclusion.
Steamboat Springs High School’s cast includes a large group of seniors as well as a few middle school students.
In terms of censorship for the oft-bawdy lyrics, Dillon said she and director Jamie Oberhansly went through the script diligently and changed inappropriate language and cut a few parts deemed too unsuitable for the young actors and the venue.
The dialogue was a bit racier than Dillon said she remembers, and they ended up needing to censor quite a bit.
For example, Dillon said that on the number “Dance: 10, Looks: Three,” they changed “tits and ass” to “this and that.” And in a monologue where an actor sings about being convinced, he has “Gonorrhea,” they took out that word entirely and made the whole situation more vague.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s rated G,” Dillon said, “But it’s not R.”
Even with the censoring, the subject matter is mature and the themes profound — getting at life’s big questions of identity, meaning and purpose.
And the kids stepped up to the challenge, Dillon said.
Delving into the most awkward moments of adolescence or deeply rooted family dysfunction, Dillon watched as students went from “reading lines to acting parts,” and taking on characters with issues out of their realm of life experience and beyond their years.
The dialogue also was updated, adding a few local allusions as well as modernizing some of the dated references, such as changing Steve McQueen and Troy Donahue to George Clooney and Robert Pattinson.
The show also is a physically demanding one, and the kids “worked their butts off” on the dance numbers, Dillon said.
They also found some recruits in the school’s dance showcase, and left to them some of the most challenging moves.
But many students who had never danced before learned to – spinning tops hats, being perfectly in sync with the others and capturing all the glitz and glamour of an bygone era.
They are dedicated, Dillon said, and have been rehearsing five days a week for a couple hours a day, and voluntarily coming in on weekends.
Kris Kolzereid, a senior and president of the Drama Troupe, learned to tap dance for the first time for his feature performance playing the character “Mike.”
He said this show has been the most fun of any that he’s been in, and that a number of students got on stage for their first time for the production.
Dillon said that the pit band, composed of students and local musicians, is amazing, “really rocking,” and that the music will not disappoint. It’s fun, catchy, upbeat and entertaining, she said.
Dillon said she hopes the older generations in the audience will find some familiarity and nostalgia in the play.
Even if you don’t know it, you’ve likely at some point heard a version of the culminating number, “One.”
Music from the immortally classic show is ubiquitous in pop culture and beyond.
Songs have been recorded by the likes of Aretha Franklin, and renditions and spoofs have popped up in numerous television shows, from Glee and Scrubs to The Simpsons and The Family Guy.
The musical remains the sixth longest-running show on Broadway.
Dillon said she loves “A Chorus Line” because it’s also a little more gritty and realistic — less Disney and happily ever after.
Dillon said that in addition to the music, she loves how the characters all get to tell their own stories through song. At the end, the characters are faced with the questions, “What if I don’t make it?” and “What is my life about?”
Kolzereid said he wasn’t familiar with the show but grew to love the story. He said he likes the behind-the-scenes perspective of auditions and the Broadway business as well as getting the back stories of the characters, “and how they develop and reveal themselves throughout the show.”
By the end, the characters have gone through the battle together, and form a friendship and sense of community, Kolzereid said.
“We do have some very talented kids,” Dillon said. “To take a show from a piece of paper and give it life, and tell a story that has an emotional connection to the audience, where they feel like they’ve been changed by what you’ve done, that’s kind of what it’s all about.”
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