Line Dancin’

Amber Sigman

Elizabethtown senior Nancy Hutcherson sits in the auditorium, where the paying customers will be, wearing a red, sequined dress. Her brown hair is curled and she’s in full make-up. She’s dressed as Cassie for the stage, the female lead, but she’s only watching, not dancing.

Her eyes dance as she follows the action.

“Step-kick-kick-LEAP-kick-touch, again … step-kick-kick-LEAP-kick-touch, again,” come the rapid-fire instructions from the director’s assistant. Would-be cast members of a musical production concentrate to follow his shouted commands.

It’s the opening scene of “A Chorus Line,” and this is a run-through, not an audition, as it seems to be.

On ‘the line’

“A Chorus Line,” originally performed in 1975, brings to life the grueling process that actors must endure as they try to get a break on Broadway.

Reflective of the late 60s and early 70s, the director, played by Danville junior David Smith, seeks to see each performer as an individual, rather than only a body that can sing and dance. He asks them to give some insight into their lives.

And most do with little hesitation, even discussing taboo topics like wet dreams, the plight of having small breasts or being called “stinky” for three years because of that one fart that got away.

But during the actual audition for the musical, actual director Stephen Stone didn’t make his auditioners delve so deeply. He also decided to modify the script to give it a modern twist.

“I wanted contemporary issues and attitudes and styles to actually steer this script, so that present-day audiences could more likely connect with the universal themes of life that are discussed in the script,” Stone said.

Stone and Jennifer Tarrazi-Scully, assistant professor of dance, choreographed the show from scratch.

For the last nine weeks, students have been rehearsing three hours a day nearly every night to ready themselves for the show. The actors have learned to juggle their full-time class schedules with work and nightly auditions.

Their outside lives remain busy, yet the cast members stay dedicated.

“We’ve all made sacrifices, but we do it because we love to do it,” said Winchester senior Christopher Kirby, playing Bobby.

‘What if I couldn’t dance .’

Mirrors were lowered onto the stage, reflecting the burgundy seats in the auditorium, where Hutcherson is sitting. The microphone screeched during Melissa Nason’s dance solo.

The Nashville senior barely noticed the feedback. Her soft, blond hair seemed to defy gravity, then fell slowly as she finished her pirouette.

This is Nason’s first day playing Cassie. She’s Hutcherson’s understudy.

And she is nervous.

Hutcherson can’t be up there. She injured her foot during ballet class, and Nason has taken her place.

But Hutcherson is singing; she wants to continue to practice despite her inability to dance.

Then tears begin to roll down her face, as the song she’s singing – Cassie’s singing – sparks real emotion.

“What if I couldn’t dance .”

While the characters on stage noisily consider such an idea, Hutcherson quietly contemplates her situation, her foot propped on a puffed up pillow.

“It had a little bit more meaning for me, with my foot being hurt,” Hutcherson said. “I thank the Lord that I will still be able to dance.”

In the meantime, Nason practices as Cassie in case Hutcherson doesn’t recover in time.

In a tank top, cut-off sweats and high-heeled shoes, Nason goes over warm-ups with the rest of the cast. Later, privately, she goes over steps and moves with Hutcherson.

She is determined.

Many singular sensations

Stone had some inspiring words to give his cast three days before opening night; he was proud.

Near tears, Stone watched the group finish a sensational first act. He also announced to the cast that Hutcherson would be able to play her lead role as Cassie. The cast responded with applause as Hutcherson smiled and felt relieved.

So is Nason.

“I’m very glad that she’s better,” Nason said. “And although I put a lot of hard work into it, I’d rather see (Hutcherson) do it.”

Hutcherson is still a little sore. But she’s still going to do it. She can work through the pain.

Two hazy back drops and a row of shiny strands of black streamers reflect red and blue hues giving a mysterious tone to the dancers. They sneak behind the glimmering tassels in their silver and black tuxedo style costumes and slyly strut across the stage during the finale.

“One, singular sensation, every little step she takes.”

And Hutcherson is there.

Reach Amber Sigman at [email protected]