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'Chorus Line's' Last Kick

April 30, 1990|DAVID D'ARCY

Stage hand Frank Wauchope, who had worked on "A Chorus Line" for the show's first five years, had taken the night off from his job as a security man for Peter Schaffer's new play "Lettuce and Lovage" around the corner to see the final performance. "As stage hands, we can really understand the stories the dancers tell in the show," said Wauchope, "because it's often just as hard for us to get work as it is for those dancers."

For some in the audience who had seen the show many times, Saturday night's performance had a new intensity. "You could tell it was different tonight," said 17-year-old Stephanie Friedman, from Easton, Pa., who was seeing "A Chorus Line" for the third time. "That made it great for us, because it was special for the actors and actresses as well."

That special feeling also struck the many alumni of the show, who packed into a party at Mama Leone's restaurant a few doors away after the performance. "I thought everybody was on their toes 3,000% more than on another night where they wouldn't have that kind of tension associated with a closing night or with an audience of such big wigs," said 35-year-old Justin Ross, who played the role of dancer Greg Gardner for two years in the 1970s.

"I'm sure the performers were all very, very nervous," said Ross, now a director and producer, "and whenever performers in 'A Chorus Line' can have something to work their nerves, it adds to the performance, because the difficult thing about doing a show like this night after night is that, technically, it's supposed to be happening for the first time. Of course, when you do a show every night, it's easy to relax into the reality that you've done it hundreds of times. But it was thrilling, and I was thrilled to have been part of the show. It made me very proud. It brought back a lot of memories."

Ross admitted that he had second thoughts about coming to the final performance. "My feelings were bittersweet," he reflected. " 'A Chorus Line' was the kind of show that you thought was going to run forever. The fact that it is closing is sad, but it also completes a circle. It's time for a new 'Chorus Line.' It's time for a show that will alter people's lives in another way."

Standing beside Ross was John Breglio, an entertainment lawyer who left his firm in 1974 to help Michael Bennett put "A Chorus Line" together. "The show was all Michael," said Breglio, who echoed the feelings of many original cast members at the party, for whom the closing of the show was another occasion to mourn Bennett's death three years ago. Breglio looked behind the bar at a life-size statue on which the number 6,137 had been placed. "I'm going to play that number in the lottery," he said. "That's the only way we're ever going to have the same kind of success that we're putting to rest tonight."

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