ITHACA, NY — The Ithaca College theater season continued this week with one of Broadway’s longest-running musicals, “A Chorus Line.”

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The show is also a “swan song” for Director Mary Corsaro, who will be retiring from Ithaca College at the end of this school year. An associate professor in the department of theatre arts, Corsaro said the show occupies a special place in her heart.

She saw the original cast of A Chorus Line in the fall of 1975 as a recent college graduate, and then directed and choreographed it at Ithaca College in 1991.

“It is bittersweet for me although everyone working on this show has made this project an absolute joy,” she wrote in a set of director’s notes distributed to press before the show.

In her speech at the opening night, Corsaro expressed her gratitude to everyone who worked on the show, especially the “incredible” cast, crew and orchestra.

Focused on seventeen Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line, the musical allows viewers to plunge into the lives and experiences of real Broadway dancers.

The characters tell their stories to the imperious director Zach, who is quite full of himself, according to Charlie Crawford, who portrays him.

“He is trying to get this whole show together to make the next big step in his career and become the king of Broadway,” Crawford said. The actors have a hard time opening up to him, but their painful confessions on the bare stage allow them to discover their true selves.

“’A Chorus Line’ is a symbolic bow to the anonymous chorus dancers known as ‘gypsies,’ who have been the backbone of the American musical for over a hundred years,” Corsaro wrote in her notes. We can all identify with their nomadic existence and desperate quest for employment, with their vulnerability, hopes, dreams, and heartbreaks, she said.

The cast met for about fifty rehearsals over the course of two months, and worked hard to function as an ensemble during this intense period. Actor Caroline Gorland, who plays the character of Judy, called it “a team effort show.”

“If one of us messes up, everyone does. I think that was the hardest part, just getting to the point where we were all at the same place together,” Gorland said.

Even more experienced dancers, like Joshua Rivera, who plays Richie, said that the show was definitely “a big leap” from everything they had done before. Rather than rehearsing in small groups, the full cast always practiced together, creating a deep sense of community, according to Rivera.

Many actors praised the guidance of director Mary Corsaro, associate director Roy Lightner and musical director Joel Gelpe.

“They were just really specific and really precise and they […] didn’t beat us over the head with the choreography. We took our time and they made sure that we brought a good product out in the end,” said Aaron Alcaraz, who plays Paul.

Most actors saw themselves in the characters. According to Caitlin Ort, the show felt pertinent to everybody on stage, because they “were living the lives of the people (they) are going to be once they leave school.” They could really identify with the fear of not finding a job, living day by day, hoping for their big break to come.

Aaron Alcaraz was reminded of how he was before getting into theater. Both Alacaraz and his character Paul found their voice when they got into acting.

“There’s just this fierce person inside of (Paul) that’s fighting to get out. For his whole life he has such a conservative upbringing with two other sisters. He never felt that he lived up to his parents’ expectations. He just always kind of sunk into himself. He is fighting to be free. This is how I see him,” Alcaraz said.

And that’s how he danced him in the finale: He said he danced “as Paul finally being free.”

All photos have been provided to The Ithaca Voice. 

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