A national touring company production of the musical “A Chorus Line” will be staged at UNM’s Popejoy Hall for four days. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8; 8 p.m. Friday, March 9, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 10 and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 11. Tickets are available at http://www.unmtickets.com, by calling 925-5858, at ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and The Pit and in the Center for the Arts box office. Popejoy Hall is located in the Center for the Arts.
By David Steinberg
“A Chorus Line” came to Broadway in 1975 and to this day it is often remembered for its bold fusing of music and dance on a bare stage backed by a bank of mirrors.
The musical’s powerful closing song-and-dance “One Singular Sensation” epitomizes that boldness.
But through the show’s dialogue and the song lyrics the musical does something that few Broadway productions have attempted: It bares the soul of 17 dancers auditioning for eight parts – four men and four women. These are of course fictional characters but their stories are based on the lives of real people, people who have been competing to make it on Broadway as professional dancers.
Let Kahlia Davis tell you her story and the story of her character, Sheila.
Davis is in the national touring production of “A Chorus Line,” which is coming to UNM’s Popejoy Hall Thursday, March 8 through Sunday, March 11.
”Sheila does not get the job in the end but she is a fiery woman, one of the older women in the line. That’s part of the story,” Davis said in a phone interview from South Bend, Ind.
“Sheila is sort of getting to the end of her career and she’s is deciding if she wants to keep doing this for the rest life. So this audition is a big turning point for her. She’s about to turn 30. ”
There’s a whole segment of the show, the Australian-born Davis said, where there’s a discussion about what you’re going to do if you’re not dancing anymore.
“That’s a time that comes up in every dancer’s career: How is the body coping with the physical strain of the job and how have you progressed in your career,” she said. “Have you achieved the roles and types of jobs you want to be doing? Have you met the goals you’ve set for yourself earlier in your career?”
Davis herself has not yet reached that crossroads. She is 22 so naturally her life story is different than Sheila’s.
But the difference between her age and Sheila’s is a challenge for Davis.
“In the rehearsal process, there are experiences I haven’t had as a 22-year-old but that Sheila has had. So you need to find things in the character you can relate to and pull from your experiences,” she said.
Like most dancers in show business she anticipates she will reflect on her career at some point .
Given the nature of the business, Davis said, a lot of those questions are out of the dancer’s control. Questions such as how the director sees you and what the creative team is seeking in a dancer or a performer.
Davis’s life has been a whirlwind for the last 2 1/2 years.
She has been in a national touring production of “42nd Street” for two seasons, spanning August. 2015 and May 2017. She was in the ensemble and then moved into the featured ensemble role of Anytime Annie. She was also and in a regional production in South Carolina, of “Mamma Mia.” She then was in a regional production of “42nd Street” in Massachusetts.
A few days after that show closed she started rehearsing for a production in Maine of “White Christmas.” When that holiday musical ended last December she drove to New York City, where she lives, to begin rehearsing for the current production of “A Chorus Line.”
Davis said she’s learned that the character of Sheila is based on Kelly Bishop, an American TV, film and Broadway actress who was in the film “Dirty Dancing” in which she portrayed the mom of Frances “Baby” Houseman.
Davis believes it’s important for her to know that Bishop is the source of Sheila’s part but it’s also vital to be aware that the musical is about the chorus and the individuals who make up the chorus.
“So you need to also bring yourself to the role because it’s about us, all the dancers in the show. …It is very special to carry on this legacy of such an iconic show,” she said.
“It’s a very special show and we’re all very privileged to carry on the stories, the stories of real people,” Davis said.
Pius there’s the benefit of learning to perform in the show from Baayock Lee, the original Connie in the 1975 Broadway production. Lee restaged the direction and the choreography for the current touring company.
“No one knows the show like Baayock Lee knows the show. She lived through it and helped develop the show. Her telling (us) those stories about the characters that a lot of people don’t know really helps in the process,” Davis said.
And Davis feels that most people in the audience will be able to relate to one of the characters.
Some of the other songs from the musical include “What I Did For Love,” “One,” “I Can Do That” and “At the Ballet.”
“A Chorus Line” won nine Tony awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Marvin Hamlisch wrote the music and Edward Kleban the lyrics.