Whenever an ensemble of players so connects with audiences the way "A Chorus Line's" performers did in 1975, there is a bond created that never seems to loosen.
They came onto the scene unexpectedly, a group of unknown Broadway gypsies whose on-stage characters seemed to represent the aspirations and cynicism of the era. To the big-chill generation that grew up with the Mouseketeers on TV in the '50s, the members of the chorus line became the group with whom they indentified as young adults in the '70s. But these new Mouseketeers bared their souls in a way the "Mickey Mouse Club" members could never dream of doing.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 18, 1990 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
"A Chorus Line"--Some copies of today's Calendar section give an incorrect date for the closing of "A Chorus Line" on Broadway. After the section went to press, the producers extended the show's run until April 28.
Now, 15 years later, at a median age of 40, many of the original members have found successful show business careers, some have sought quieter spaces and some are chasing new pursuits altogether. None of the original 19 members--interviewed for this article--was launched into "stardom." But none of that matters to any of them.
"That was never the intent. We were not in the show to become stars," says Donna McKechnie, who won a Tony Award for her performance as the veteran dancer Cassie. She said the show "was designed (by director Michael Bennett) to be bigger than any one cast member. . . . Think of how (we) lived before we got a chance in 'Chorus Line.' The show has given me everything."
Whatever they're doing, they're all still alive and, they say, mostly happy.
"Alive" was mentioned frequently, because three of the show's five creators have died: director-choreographer Bennett who died of complications from AIDS; lyricist Edward Kleban, and librettist James Kirkwood, whose deaths were listed as cancer related. And "happy" because they've moved on with their lives, after spending an average of two years each with the show. Cast member Michel Stuart, who played Greg, has become a recognized Broadway producer. His recollection is that "A Chorus Line" was "one wonderful moment in my career, but it's not my life."
Likewise, Tony Award-winning choreographer Thommie Walsh, who played Bobby, says he's "very satisfied" with the way things have gone. "Too much is made that none of the cast ever became stars. . . . I'd say we're all pretty happy."
Walsh knows, because he and Baayork Lee, who played Connie, have kept in touch with the cast to organize "On the Line," a book of the cast members' memoirs. Written by Robert Viagas, it's due from William Morrow in early April.
Calendar contacted the cast (pictured in the show's logo, above) and two more who are not pictured, to find out how they're doing these days. From left to right:
Ron Kuhlman: In the musical, Kuhlman, as Don, tells the director Zach that ultimately he, too, wants to be a director so he can support a wife and two kids. Fifteen years later, Kuhlman has a wife and one daughter, and he's "making a living" as an actor. Kuhlman has recently done roles on the "Brady Bunch"-revisited programs, film work and has been widely seen in Los Angeles theater, most recently in "Heathen Valley" at the Gem Theatre. If he had his choice about spending his time, he'd rather be mountain climbing or sailing.
Kay Cole: Last year she completed a 15-month run in the Los Angeles company of "Les Miserables." Cole, who played Maggie ("At the Ballet"), has choreographed shows in London, returned to the United States six years ago, and worked in film and TV in Los Angeles ever since. She's involved with a new singing group called "Pure Broadway," sort of a " '90s-style Manhattan Transfer," she says.
Wayne Cilento: He lives 35 miles north of Manhattan in Mamaroneck, N.Y., but is in the city all the time, still proving, as his character Mike sang: "I Can Do That." "You gotta do everything," he says. He's still active in theater and directing and choreographing.
Baayork Lee: A choreographer and director, Lee is currently choreographing "Porgy and Bess" for the Charleston (S.C.) Symphony, is the resident choreographer for Washington Opera and has staged "A Chorus Line" in 29 different productions around the world. She played Connie in the original and still says she "will never stop doing the show because it's such an integral part of my life." She recently formed her own production company to produce shows in the Far East and Europe.
Michel Stuart: Stuart, who played Greg, the character who knew he was gay at 14, recently moved to Los Angeles. He has successfully produced such shows as "Nine" and "The Tap Dance Kid" on Broadway and "Cloud Nine" Off Broadway. He now says he's shifting his theater focus here.
Donna McKechnie: The Tony Award winner for her performance as Cassie ("The Music and the Mirror"), she has appeared and starred in musicals, such as "Can Can" in London, a touring company of "Sweet Charity" and "Annie Get Your Gun," which she will do again this summer at Harrah's Lake Tahoe. McKechnie, who was married for a time to Bennett, makes her home in the L.A. area and New York.