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Vashon High School to present 'A Chorus Line' starting March 12

Dozens of dancers rehearse for their upcoming performance of “A Chorus Line.” - Craig Hanson photo
Dozens of dancers rehearse for their upcoming performance of “A Chorus Line.”
— image credit: Craig Hanson photo

One of the most beloved shows in the American musical theater canon, “A Chorus Line,” is about to have its Island debut, thanks to an intrepid cast and crew of teenagers who will bring the iconic musical to life on Vashon High School’s stage.

“A Chorus Line,” which won nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1976, ran for 15 consecutive years on Broadway, but the show’s Vashon run will only last three weekends in March, and organizers are hoping to pack the house for those nine performances.

The show is a production of Vashon High School’s Theatre Arts Department, and it will be directed by Stephen Floyd, the school’s drama teacher, and Susan Hanson, the school’s principal. Musical direction will be provided by Maggie Laird, a noted Island chanteuse and performer.

For Floyd, who has a doctorate in theater from the University of Oregon, working on the show has been a special experience and one that has brought back memories.

“‘A Chorus Line’ was my first theater date,” Floyd said in an e-mail. “I have the same excitement about working on this play as I had about seeing it for the first time over 30 years ago. Watching rehearsals every day calls to mind old friends who — like Michael Bennett, the original director and choreographer who came up with the idea for the show — were taken from us in the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

“It also reminds me of the value of theater art in my own life, and makes me grateful for the opportunities I have had to do what I love for over 40 years.”

“A Chorus Line” tells the story of a group of dancers in the midst of a grueling audition process for a new Broadway musical. After an initial cut in which some dancers are eliminated, the characters reflect upon their childhood and adolescence, why they started dancing and the value of the art form they have chosen in their lives.

The stories they tell, said Floyd, “create a complex work, full of comedy and tragedy, romance and suspense, joy and heartbreak.”

In the closing scenes of the play the director chooses his cast, and the action fast-forwards to the dancers performing a show-stopping number, “One,” on a brightly lit Broadway stage.

Other well-known songs in musical include “What I Did for Love” and “At the Ballet.”

The show, rarely produced as a high school musical in Washington, was chosen for several reasons, Floyd said, including the artistic merit of the show and the ensemble nature of the piece.

“There are no stars,” he explained, “just a group of actors and dancers who are all equal in importance.”

Floyd, who has taught drama at Vashon High School for the past eight years, also stressed that the musical was chosen because of the educational challenges and steep learning curve it offered his students.

“It demands greater sophistication and skill in the realm of dance than any other show we have done at VHS,” he said.

The show will be choreographed by Geoff Reiman, who graduated from Vashon High School in 2003 and now lives in Seattle.

“This show is very special to me because it is about dancers, and that has been the art form that has been most meaningful in my life,” said Reiman, who has choreographed two other shows at Vashon High School. “It’s particularly exciting to see students who are not experienced dancers doing so well in this play.”

One of those dancers, senior Eli Hoyt, is making his stage debut in the show.

“Everyone has been incredibly accepting and helpful,” Hoyt said. “It’s been a wonderful experience, and I haven’t regretted any of the hard work and time it has taken.”

Another cast member, Meme Garcia-Cosgrove, a veteran performer who has taken four years of theater classes at the high school, also said she was enjoying being in the show, and was grateful to have a chance to perform in the ensemble.

“It’s a great feeling to have so much constant support from others on stage with you,” she said.

Floyd attributed much of his students’ enthusiasm for “A Chorus Line” to the fact that it contains “material that reflects their own concerns and lives,” and he predicted Island audiences will be able to relate to the show as well.

“(The show has) ... great songs, tuneful melodies and memorable lyrics, characters and stories the audience can identify with, whether of not you’ve ever been in a play in your life,” he said.

Best of all, he said, is play’s central theme — “that the arts have value in our lives, exemplified by artists who don’t regret ‘what I did for love.’”

“A Chorus Line” will be presented March 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m. Tickets for most evening performances are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Matinees are $8 for all ages. A special performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 20, will be a benefit for Rotary’s community service projects; all tickets to that performance are $12. Tickets are available at Books by the Way, Vashon High School’s office and at the door.

The show contains material that some parents may find unsuitable for small children. There is some profanity, and characters frankly discuss issues related to sexuality, child abuse, body image and sexism in American culture, depression and suicide, and other topics.

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