“A Chorus Line” challenges Grady Drama, promises success

Ellie Winer

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Ellie Winer

Senior Robert Mobley practices his solo performance as Bobby Mills.

“Up, down. Up, down. Again,” said junior Clarice Hill as she led warm-ups.
The sounds of feet hitting the floor and frustration come from the theater stage. Students lie down, bringing their legs up into the air and back down again. Then, they stand up. Knees half bent, they practice pliés, bringing their arms out and up.
Nearly every day at 3:45, the Grady cast of “A Chorus Line” starts their rehearsal. Practices end at 6:30 or 7 on weekdays, and last five hours on weekends. The musical’s opening night is October 18th, and the cast is working hard to prepare.
Lee Pope, the musical theater director at Grady as well as the Social Studies Department Chair Lead, is directing the musical.
““[A Chorus Line]’ is about the people that nobody really stops to think about. It’s not about the stars of Broadway,” Pope said.
Pope attended Jackson State University and studied musical theater as an undergraduate degree. He also received conservatory training at the American and Musical Dramatic Academy, and has directed many musicals at Grady, including “Gypsy” and “Into the Woods.”
The premise of “A Chorus Line” revolves around the lives of 17 dancers who have been casted for a Broadway show. The musical portrays the individual stories of each dancer. Michael Bennett originally directed “A Chorus Line” for the Broadway version.
“[Bennett] collected these stories and he turned it into what some people say is the greatest…Broadway show,” Pope said. “It’s heartbreak, it’s comedy, it is empowerment. It’s absolutely beautiful because it’s the story of human beings.”
Many cast members are encouraged by Pope to try and understand their character’s backgrounds in order to portray them better.
The cast will sometimes meet as many as seven days a week, either in the theater or chorus room. They have been practicing since late July.
“I really like the cast because it’s always a lot of fun when we are together, but also can get really stressful because we are trying to learn so much in so little time,” said sophomore Erin Taylor, who is a part of the ensemble in “A Chorus Line”.
Because the musical is about dancers, there are many people who must learn dance for the first time. Grady alum Miller Lansing graduated in 2013, and has been teaching the cast dances for the production. She attended Agnes Scott College after graduating in 2013, and the second of her double major was dancing.
While they are using the original opening and closing dances from Broadway, Lansing is still choreographing most of the dances in between.
“I listen to the music very carefully — a lot of broadway scores have a lot of musical cues,” Lansing said. “I’ll have a song on repeat if I’m driving or running.”
In early October, the cast will perform at the Region One Act Competition. They are competing against three other schools in the district. Pope has high hopes for advancing into further rounds, like the state competition.
The theater program also hopes to be screened to perform “A Chorus Line” at the Thespian Convention in February, which takes place in Columbus, Georgia. Judges will be sent to the performances to determine if they make the audition. Grady has never entered thus far.
Pope believes performing “A Chorus Line” is very unique for a high school because of its vulnerability. He also feels that the cast members are very committed.
Along with “A Chorus Line” in October, Grady plans on performing “The Little Mermaid” in January and “West Side Story” in March.
 
“Everyone who comes to the show will be able to relate to one of the 17 stories,” Lansing said.

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