NEW YORK — The Wall Street Journal — “Apr 16, 2015 proclaimed A CHORUS LINE Day” — ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Chorus Line’ Casts Celebrate 40 Years at the Public Theater. A Chorus Line has a Musical Score by Composer Marvin Hamlisch (1944–2012)
Hamilton’ chorus members sang the anthem ‘What I Did For Love’
It’s extraordinary enough to get a chance to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s game-changing musical “Hamilton,” which has received rave reviews since it opened downtown at the Public Theater in February. But Thursday’s show was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
That’s because the evening also marked the 40th anniversary of the first performance of the game-changing musical “A Chorus Line,” which played in the Newman Theater, the same space as “Hamilton.”
That evening four decades ago, designer Robin Wagner’s mirrors had not yet arrived, said the Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis.
“They did the preview with no set. The stage was empty,” said Mr. Eustis. “And the audience just leapt to its feet. Joe [Papp] said there was never anything like it.”
Many of the original cast members of “A Chorus Line” came to Thursday’s performance. Before the show, there was a reception in the Library restaurant with stuffed mushrooms, hamburger sliders and mini banana cream pies.
Among the guests were Priscilla Lopez, who introduced the “Chorus Line” song “Nothing” 40 years ago and later worked with Mr. Miranda on “In the Heights”; Jonathan Tunick, who did the original “Chorus Line” orchestrations; and the attorney John Breglio, who has helped preserve the legacy of the show. Mr. Miranda’s parents, of course, were also in attendance.
“I’ve already seen ‘Hamilton’ nine times,” said his mother, Dr. Luz Towns Miranda. “I can’t wait to see it again.”
As she logged her 10th visit, the cast of “Hamilton” formed a line with their headshots. The “Hamilton” chorus members sang the anthem “What I Did For Love” before inviting the “Chorus Line” actors up to the stage to present them with a plaque that will hang in the Ford Foundation Lobby of the Public.
The experience was exceedingly emotional, one made more so by the parallels between the musicals.
“‘A Chorus Line’ turned the spotlight to the people who made the shows, and in doing that, it did something for all of America,” explained Mr. Eustis. “People went to see a musical about the dignity of people who wanted to do their jobs.”
“Hamilton,” he added, “is embracing of the promise of America, that it belongs to everyone.”
“We try to make theater every day and every 40 years we hit it out of the park,” he said.
After some singing and some tears, the two groups congregated upstairs to share a little Champagne.
Donna McKechnie, who rushed in from Broadway’s “The Visit,” where she is Chita Rivera’s standby, said that when she took on the leading role of Cassie, she never even considered that “A Chorus Line” would end up being a sensation.
“When I heard ‘At the Ballet,” I thought, ‘This will be an artistic success,’ but I had no idea how far reaching it would be.”
Phillipa Soo, who stars as Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, said she had no way of imagining that “Hamilton” would have the impact it’s already had on audiences and the theater community, either.
“I knew we were going to tell this story,” said Ms. Soo, who shared that she saw “A Chorus Line” for the first time while she was in high school in the Midwest. “It’s so simple, but it’s the most profound experience.”
Friends have told Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays Eliza’s sister Angelica Schuyler, that “Hamilton” actually reminds them of “A Chorus Line.”
“It’s the greatest compliment in the world,” Ms. Goldsberry said. “That show has done things you only dream of doing. But to have the ability to reach for that—maybe we can change the world.”
Ms. Goldsberry starred in the first few minutes of a production of “A Chorus Line” when she was a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon.
“I’d go datta dat dat dat dat dat dat dat, and then I’d work the lights,” she recalled.
Mr. Miranda also had “A Chorus Line” in his back pocket. Growing up, his high school sweetheart directed a production of the show, he recalled.
“I was her assistant. Talk about ‘What I did for love.’”
WATCH VIDEO: The Public Theater — Hamilton Musical salutes A Chorus Line. Happy 40 Anniversary to A Chorus Line original cast!
He said he felt that all of the performers on stage Thursday, including himself, worked harder than they’d ever worked because they knew who was out in the dark watching them.
“There’s a moment in ‘Hamilton’ when I ask ‘What is a legacy?’ I’m supposed to get choked up, but tonight I really got choked up. This is legacy. It was a really special night.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Source: Marshall Heyman at The Wall Street Journal