Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Chorus Line

Written by James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch, & Edward Kleban
Directed by Tom Rowan 

Produced by The Secret Theatre

Nominated for:  Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role, Adrian Grace Bumpas; Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role, Kelly Barberito; Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role & Outstanding Choreography/Movement, Geena Quintos; Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role, Jonny Stein; and Outstanding Production of a Musical

Photo by David Krochalis

About the Production
2015 was the 40th anniversary of A Chorus Line’s Broadway debut. In honor of this momentous milestone, The Secret Theatre wanted to be the very first New York theatre to put up a production during the anniversary year. Featuring iconic choreography and characters who resonate deeply with theatrical artists, A Chorus Line is a classic American musical.

The Secret Theatre’s Artistic Director, Richard Mazda; performers, Adrian Grace Bumpas, Kelly Barberito, Jonny Stein; and actress performer/choreographer Geena Quintos discuss their work on this personal and insightful production.


What attracted you to this work?

Adrian: A Chorus Line' is a dream show for me. There is so much heart throughout the piece. This was my third time doing the show -- I feel like every time you get the chance to do it, you leave having more life-long friends because it bonds you in an everlasting way.

Geena: A Chorus Line is a show that has changed my life. It is the first show I ever did professionally (National Tour 2012-2013) and it made me realize my potential asa young woman in the business trying to pursue singing, acting, and dancing. When Tom Rowan approached me about choreographing the show, I was nervous (in a good way!) but ready to take on the challenge of working on a show that has been so dear to me over the years.

Jonny: A Chorus Line is a show that sheds light on the auditioning process that a lot of non-actors never get to see, and that kind of work is exciting to me. To get a chance to reproduce a Broadway final callback for friends who work as consultants at Deloitte or have entry level finance jobs at J.P. Morgan and hear them discuss what they learned (albeit somewhat dramatized) is what I was looking forward to upon going in for this show. And of course to dance the iconic dances in this show was a strong incentive too.

Kelly: I had been living in New York for 6 months and this was the first show I did. I thought it was a perfect introduction to New York and the life of an actor.

Richard: We wanted to be the first New York theatre to produce the show on its 40th anniversary.  This show truly deserves the approbation - iconic. Michael Bennett working with some of Marvin Hamlisch's best tunes molded a show that gives us the first real look inside the life of an ensemble performer, I found this fascinating. We also had the real bonus of having Tom Rowan as our director. Tom had just published the book, A Chorus Line FAQ and his encyclopedic knowledge of Chorus Line gave the project some heft. Once we secured a great cast and crew things happened really quickly but yet there was always risk of not doing the show justice so once we had a big success that whole thing was a kind of a rush!

I want the audience to realize that a theatre in Queens can pull off a high quality show of the kind that one might expect to see on an off-Broadway or Broadway stage. I want to break the glass ceiling that signifying that 'important theatre' happens in Manhattan.
Photo by David Krochalis

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Adrian: Our production was in such a small place. We were all terrified and wondered if we could actually pull it off. I think our results were above and beyond what we ever expected. Unlike other productions, it was in an actual audition sized space. You could literally smell our hunger to be on that line.

Geena: There were many aspects of this production that made it very special to me; however, my absolute favorite part about working on this show was being able to rehearse and work with this stellar cast. Everyone was always 100% committed to the movement and story. They understood that it was the lives of these characters that made A Chorus Line so relevant and important. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to work with each and every one of them!

Jonny: This production, unlike any other show I have done, paralleled my real life tremendously. There is a moment towards the end where all of the characters are forced to think about what they would do if they couldn't dance anymore. The director challenges the performers to give it some deeper thought and at a certain point the actors behind these vulnerable characters can't help but hear as the question bleeds into our own psyches.

Kelly: My favorite part was going on as Maggie. I was originally just dance captain and a cut dancer. Our Maggie had gotten sick and they asked me to take over the role. Finally being a part of the CHORUS LINE was the best part of the process for me.

Richard: Its hard to choose but at the beginning it was probably seeing the actors for the first time in rehearsal working the iconic opening number which introduces us to all the characters. At the end of the rehearsal period it was watching the finale number on opening night.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?

Adrian:  From the get-go we were faced with real life, challenging obstacles that we all had to overcome together. No matter what was thrown our way, this show was going to be seen. It just shows what hard working, driven, and the most passionate creators I was fortunate enough to work with.

Geena: The most challenging part was definitely the job of pulling double duty as both Choreographer and playing the role of the strong-willed Diana Morales. It has always been a dream role of mine, so being able to get my hands on it was exciting enough. But also, being given the chance to pass down the incredible choreography of A Chorus Line was extremely special. It was hard and very trying at times, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world. I was living two dreams at one time!

Kelly: Definitely learning the role of Maggie the day of final dress and going on that night. It was very unexpected and scary, but helped me grow as a performer.

Richard: Fitting the 17 main characters on to our stage!  This show requires the 'line' to have 17 characters and although the Secret Theatre has a larger stage than most Off-Off venues nevertheless one has to have enough room for the line and for the finale number.  We managed it obviously which is a huge testament to our Choreographer, Geena Quintos!

What was the weirdest part of working on this production?

Adrian: After the passing of a close friend, I was a little lost on if I actually should be doing this for a living. At our first rehearsal, (as scared and excited as I was) I met the wonderful Geena Quintos who had also gone to high school with this same beloved friend, every rehearsal I caught a glimmer of his spirit through her. Being under direction of this firecracker of a woman and not to mention getting to watch her on stage every night simply glow -- it revived my passion, gave me courage, and reminded me why I do this, for love.

Geena: Tom Rowan and I re-staged A Chorus Line on a thrust stage!! That, within itself, was a very fun and innovative experience for the both of us. In a way, it allowed us to look at A Chorus Line in a completely different way and involve the entire audience in the line's audition experience.

Kelly: Throughout this process, I had a bunch of different roles all at once. It definitely kept me on my toes!

Richard: The whole experience was an eye opener to the classic musical genre because so many aspects of this show became essential chapters in the book of Musical Theatre. We were also lucky to have Tom Rowan, a director whose encyclopedic knowledge and love of the show was a driving force.  It was a challenge to mount a respectful and more than solid version of the show given limitations of budget and space but I really think we pulled off a great show which is a testament to the effort, skill and great talent that the production was grateful to have on board.

The oddest thing was working with Mylar mirrors

Photo by David Krochalis

What was it like working with The Secret Theatre?

Adrian: Everyone put their heart on the stage. No matter what condition, temperature, or new cast member -- we all truly did every performance like it was our last.

Geena: The best thing about working with this company is the passion and commitment they brought to their characters every single night. I couldn't ask for a better company to choreograph and be on stage with every night!

Kelly: The best thing about working with this company is that they trusted me to go on and fulfill the role with a day’s notice. They trusted that I could learn the part the day of and go on. It made me feel they valued my work and work ethic.

What was it like working with Adrian, Kelly, Jonny, and Geena?

Richard: As a Choreographer Geena exhibits a talent and skill that totally belies her 23 years. I have just completed a second project with her and once again she knocked it out of the park. As an actress, Geena really did a terrific job of Diana and each night her vocals on 'What I Did for Love' was deeply affecting. Total class!

Jonny gave a real show stopping version of 'I Can Do That' which is a definite 'high energy' number that he performed with huge charisma each night. He deserves his nomination for sure!

Adrian was a huge comedic find for this production and she gave the 'kooky', tone deaf, Kristine who mangles the melody of 'Sing', her partner Al in the show finishes or sometime begins her sentences to huge comedic effect. We thought she was perfect in that role.

Kelly stepped into the role when our original Maggie left the show due to a medical emergency. The transition to this import role was smooth and Kelly nailed the famous high note in 'At The Ballet' straight out of the gate and every night after that.

You can follow these artists on Twitter
The Secret Theatre - @secretheatreNY
Adrian Grace Bumpas - @adrieebug

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