SAN DIEGO — "A Chorus Line" taught us how tough it is to get into the ensemble of a Broadway show. But according to Kimberly Kalember, a San Diego-born performer who got her big break in the national company of "Me and My Girl," getting through a grueling cattle call audition is only the beginning.
"Unless you're exceedingly lucky, it doesn't end there. A couple of hundred women compete each time, and even if you're selected, you're probably just going to be put on a casting file--which means they'll call you if an opening comes up.
"I made it through the callbacks and was put on file for 'Singin' in the Rain' on Broadway, but I never got called for a job," she said. "It takes a lot of perseverance, politics and continually dropping off post cards (mini-resumes with photos) so they're constantly reminded that you're interested in the job."
Kalember's persistence paid off--eventually. She missed out on "Singin' in the Rain," but when the stage manager moved on to "Me and My Girl," Kalember and her ever-prodding post cards went with him.
"You have to be persistent without being pushy," she said. "A lot of it depends on timing. I was told they didn't have anything for me, and three weeks after that, I was offered a part in 'Me and My Girl.' " It opens at the San Diego Civic Theatre tonight and runs through Jan. 8.
Kalember is still a long way from stardom in this show. She sings and dances in the chorus, playing only minor character roles most of the time. But in selected performances, Kalember can be seen prominently in several guises.
"Since I understudy three women in the show, I go on a lot (in strong cameos). I understudy one of the men's roles too, so I have an opportunity to play a man sometimes. I even do one scene with Tim Curry," the star of the show. "I love doing that, and it's very exciting to play a lot of different people.
"But everybody is incorporated in the show. It's not a traditional chorus where everyone just blends into the background. Everyone (plays) a character role."
Among Kalember's early mentors in San Diego were Don and Bonnie Ward, when they directed San Diego Junior Theater. During her years at Madison High, Kalember danced and sang in the chorus of many a Starlight show--alongside another successful San Diego dancer, Jamie Torcellini.
"Jamie and I met in 1974 in Junior Theater. Now we're together again in 'Me and My Girl,' " Kalember said. "The funny thing is, I didn't even know he was in the show when I got the part." (Torcellini, a veteran of "Cats" and other Broadway shows, understudies the lead in this production.)
As 29-year-old Kalember explained: "It was a long, hard road. I waited on tables forever, and it was a lot of struggle. This job didn't just land in my lap. I paid my dues. That doesn't mean other people haven't worked hard, too, but I feel I've earned my big break. And I think it will be easier for me after this. I've already learned so much."
Is working in a hit musical all that it's cracked up to be?
"Oh yes," she said without hesitation. "It's as great as I thought it was going to be. Work is work, but there's a different level of working when you're in a show. It feels unbelievable. Every bit of sweat, tears and rejection paid off. Now I want to do the best job I can."