For more than an hour, the cast of Temple Theaters’ A Chorus Line was put through what can only be described as a dancer boot camp by one of the show’s original cast members.
Baayork Lee, who has worked with the 1974 musical since its inception, tasked the cast with an assortment of push-ups, Pilates, yoga and mind-boggling ab exercises all specifically designed to condition actors for the intensity of a long run of A Chorus Line.
“Do you want to be in the business,” Lee asked the actors nearly 45 minutes into the March 23 session. “It’s harder than this.”
Catching a break after the warm-up, the actors looked forward, albeit with a good dose of nerves, to having Lee in the audience at that evening’s performance.
“It’s intimidating having someone with such a close relationship with the show in the audience,” said Alec Moss, who plays Mark.
Even the cast member who plays the director, Zach – a character who doesn’t dance – got into the action. Shawn Hudson said the cast’s warm-up is generally just 20 minutes long and doesn’t include some of the strengthening exercises that Lee led.
Before leading the group warm-up, the effervescent Lee, who created the role of Connie, talked about some of the challenges she faced as a career dancer who was being asked to act and sing for A Chorus Line, which opened on Broadway in 1975.
“We didn’t have acting lessons, so [director Michael Bennett] would have to show us how to deliver lines,” she said.
Lee’s specialization in dance would never fly in the business today. “If I had to be hired now, I would never be hired,” she said, admiring the young actors for their dedication to becoming “triple threats” in singing, acting and dancing.
Following the warm-up, Lee led the cast through the show’s opening number, helping to tweak and perfect the dancers’ moves.
Even though Lee has worked with A Chorus Line for most of her career, it’s apparent that her love for the show hasn’t waned. “It’s been 36 years, and it doesn’t feel like it at all.”
A Chorus Line runs through March 31. CLICK HERE for ticket information.
See more images from the workshop here:
Photos by Joseph Labolito