‘Chorus Line’ gets an insider’s viewpoint at the Paramount
By Randall G. Mielke January 4, 2012 3:52PM
Mitzi Hamilton dances the role of Val (second row, right, circa 1983) in the Broadway production of "A Chorus Line." |Courtesy of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts/Photographer Martha Swope
‘A Chorus Line’
♦ Jan. 18-Feb. 5
♦ Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
♦ Tickets, $34.90-$46.90
♦ (630) 896-6666;
It might be hard to imagine that the iconic musical “A Chorus Line” was born of a bunch of dancers and performers just sitting around a room and talking. But, according to Mitzi Hamilton, who is directing and choreographing “A Chorus Line” for the Paramount Theatre, that is how it all began for a show that would eventually be performed for 15 consecutive years on Broadway. And Hamilton should know — she was there.
“In January 1974, I was invited to participate in some sessions with Michael Bennett,” said Hamilton of the man who conceived the idea of “A Chorus Line” and who would direct and choreograph the show on Broadway.
“We had just finished doing ‘Seesaw’ (which Bennett also directed and choreographed). We danced, we sat around, he tape-recorded us, he’d ask questions. We had two taped sessions — they lasted all night long. I think he had something like 30 hours of tapes after we were done.
“The character Val is based on me,” Hamilton continued. “It is actually a combination of my story and the story of Pam Blair, who played the role originally on Broadway. A lot of the roles in the show are composite characters.”
Hamilton, whose stage credits include “Cabaret,” “Pippin” and “Applause,” performed as Val in the original London cast in 1976 for six months and then joined the New York company. She would go on to perform “A Chorus Line” on Broadway from 1977 to 1986. Hamilton would go on to direct and choreograph more than 35 productions of the musical in Europe, the United States and Asia.
“A Chorus Line” is set in an empty theater, on a bare stage, where 17 dancers yearn for a coveted spot in the chorus of a big Broadway musical. The show explores their individual stories of hope, sacrifice, soul-searching and dreams as they share their tales with a generally unseen but definitely heard director during a daylong audition.
The original production of “A Chorus Line” opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater’s Newman Theatre on May 21, 1975, and transferred to Broadway’s Shubert Theatre two months later where it ran through April 28, 1990 — for 6,137 performances. The original production won nine Tony Awards, including best musical, and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Hamilton finds great satisfaction in instructing younger generations about the show.
“I love passing it on to young dancers; informing them of the background of the show,” she said. “Michael did it for us in those days,” said Hamilton of Bennett, who died in 1987 at the age of 44. “I want to pass it on now. He would be thrilled that we are passing it on. It is his genius work.”
Randall G. Mielke is a local free-lance writer.