Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘A Chorus Line’ — UTEP Dinner Theatre, in the UTEP Student Union West building, presents the Michael Bennett musical, winner of the 1976 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Jan. 26-Feb. 11. Show time is 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; non-dinner matinees are Sunday 2:30 p.m. Feb. 4 and 11; dinner matinee is 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28. Tickets: $33.50 to $43.50 Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday discount dinner performances; $36.50 to $48.50 (Friday and Saturday dinner performances), and $19.50 to $29.50 no-dinner matinee performances (Ticketmaster). Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt.
“A Chorus Line” captures the spirit and tension of a Broadway chorus audition. Exploring the inner lives and poignant ambitions of professional Broadway gypsies, the show features one powerhouse number after another. Memorable musical numbers include “What I Did for Love,” “One,” “I Can Do That,” ”At the Ballet,” “The Music and the Mirror,” and “I Hope I Get It.”
‘Los Desarraigados’ — Los Actores Spanish-language theatre company presents the play by Humberto Robles at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26-28, at the Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S San Marcial. Admission; $10 ($8 seniors, military, students; $6 each for groups of 10 or more). Information: 540-3813 or 474-4275.
The play tells the story of an attractive well-to-do young woman from Mexico City whose unexpected arrival in El Paso at the house of a working-class Mexican American family forces them to confront their own identity and place in American society. Co-presented by International Hispanic Cultural Institute (IHCI).
‘Photograph 51’ — No Strings Theatre Company presents the story of Rosalina Franklin and DNA by Anna Ziegler Jan. 26-Feb. 11 at Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main in Las Cruces. Directed by Ceil Herman. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Sunday Feb. 3 and 10; and at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday. Reservations: (575) 523-1223.
“Photograph 51” is the story of Rosalind Franklin and DNA and neatly coils a scientific detective story around a rumination on how sexism, personality, and morality can impact collaboration and creativity.
Improv Comedy Show — Jesters League of America, hosts its first improv show of the year 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at Glasbox, 210 Poplar. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Mature content. Admission: $6 at the door; $5 on the league’s Facebook page by clicking “attending.” Information: (813) 785-6664.
The Jesters League of America is a group of improv comedians who perform live, unscripted comedy throughout El Paso.
Bel Air Faculty Showcase — Bel Air High School’s 5th Annual Faculty Showcase is 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, in the Tartan Theatre on the Bel Air campus, 731 N Yarbrough. Tickets: $2 at the door. Information:434-3178.
Performances include flamenco dancer Sylvia Camañez McMinn, Dangerstein from Chucho Soul Project, guitarist/singer Anthony Ramirez, singers Lauren Peña and Nabil Gonzalez from the UTEP Dinner Theatre, performance artist Talia Lelani and more.
‘13’ — Kids-N-Co. presents musical comedy about fitting in – and standing out — at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 4, at First Presbyterian Church, 1340 Murchison. No performance Feb. 2. Directed by Anthony Michael Stokes. Tickets: $7 ($5 children, students, senior citizens, military), available at the door. Some subject matter may be considered offensive for this show, so parental guidance is advised. Information: 274-8797 or on Facebook at El Paso Kids-n-Co.
“Geek. Poser. Jock. Beauty Queen. Wannabe.” These are the labels that can last a lifetime. With a rock score from Tony-winning composer, Jason Robert Brown, the show revolves around the life of Evan Goldman who is plucked from his fast-paced, preteen New York City life and plopped into a sleepy Indiana town following his parents’ divorce. Surrounded by an array of simpleminded middle school students, he needs to establish his place in the popularity pecking order.
‘Lend Me A Tenor’ — Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall, presents the Ken Ludwig musical through Feb. 4. Directed by Michael Wise. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 ($12 student, senior, military). Information: (575) 523-1200 or lcctnm.org.
World-renowned tenor Tito Merelli has signed on to play Otello at a Cleveland opera company in the fall of 1934. He arrives late and, through a set of crazy circumstances, passes out after mixing wine with a huge dose of tranquilizers. Believing that the divo is dead, the excitable opera manager taps his hapless assistant, an aspiring singer named Max, to suit up as the Moor and replace Merelli.
‘On Golden Pond’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, presents the Ernest Thompson drama Feb. 9-March 4. Directed by Veronica Flores. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $15 ($12 seniors 62+, students, military). Information: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
Ethel and Norman Thayer return home to Golden Pond for the 48th year, in a love story made famous on film by Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda.
‘Love is a Drag’ — UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance hosts the musical benefit performance with Josey Pickett and Allen Thompson at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, at the UTEP Dinner Theatre in the student union. Tickets: $20; $15 UTEP students (Ticketmaster). Proceeds go to help UTEP’s production of “Lydia” at KCACTF. Information: 747-5234.
Murder Mystery Dinner Theater — i-Suspect presents an Interactive Murder Mystery Dinner Theater running weekends in February, as well as Valentine’s Day at the Venue Events & Ballroom, 6633 N. Mesa, Suite 400. Shows are 7 to 9:30 p.m. Fridays, 4 to 6:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14. Cost: $52.50 plus tax; early Saturday dinner show, $49.99 plus tax; Valentine’s Day Show $55. Information: 519-4854 or i-suspect.com.
The audience will witness a murder and uncover clues throughout the night to reveal the murderer. Dinner and dessert will be served. BYO wine event (no liquor or beer).
‘The Odyssey’ — American Southwest Theatre Company presents Homer’s classic Feb. 16-25, at NMSU’s Center for the Arts. Directed by Mary Zimmerman. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: $17 ($14 seniors; $10 students; $5 high school students with current I.D.) Information: (575) 646-4515 or nmsutheatre.com.
The Odyssey, as adapted by Zimmerman, makes thrilling, playful and new one of the most memorable epics of all time. The adventure story features cyclopes, sea-monsters, shipwrecks, gods and goddesses.
‘Cox and Box’ — Gilbert and Sullivan Company of El Paso presents the one-act operetta with libretto by F.C. Burnand and music by Arthur Sullivan, at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main in Las Cruces. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65). Reservations: (575) 650-7915.
The other “act” will be a celebration of the various guises of love through the lens of Gilbert and Sullivan songs.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ — Sun City Musical Theatre, 3733 Shell Suite C, presents the classic musical, Feb. 24-March 11. A gala opening night is Friday, Feb. 23. Ticket prices and other information: 637-1618, suncitymusicaltheatre.com or on Facebook.
El Paso Playhouse auditions — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, hosts auditions Sunday and Monday, Feb. 25-26, for ‘Love From a Stranger’ by Agatha Christie. Show dates are April 20-May 12. Information, audition times: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
‘Middletown’ — No Strings Theatre Company presents the new play by Will Eno March 2-18 at Black Box Theatre in Las Cruces. Directed by Autumn Gieb. This “deeply moving and funny new play” explores the universe of a small American town. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 11 and 18; and at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday. Reservations: (575) 523-1223.
‘A Chorus Line’ demands acting, dancing, singing
Director Jaime Barba gets to take a trip down memory lane directing “A Chorus Line” at UTEP Dinner Theatre.
He was in the show playing Greg Gardner when the Dinner Theatre first produced it in 1995, so he understood the challenges of producing this particular musical.
“‘A Chorus Line’ is different kind of show,” Barba said. “It is a show that truly requires every performer in it be a ‘triple threat.’ It is essential to the show that each performer is well versed in acting, singing and dancing. There is no chorus. There are no ‘lead’ characters.
“The 18 ‘dancers’ that are onstage for the entire show have to use all three performing disciplines to tell their stories. It is quite challenging for any performer to take on a role in this show. Dance plays a very important part of the story telling. So, we had to cast a group of kids that could dance. And as anyone who works in the theatre knows, it is hard to try and find a large group of male performers who can dance as well as sing and act. That was a challenge.”
How different is “A Chorus Line” from typical musical fare? It was considered innovative when it opened in 1975 on Broadway, winning nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
“‘A Chorus Line’ is very different than you standard ‘boy meets girl’ musical,” Barba said. “It follows the audition process of Broadway dancers trying to get their next ‘gig.’ Throughout the audition process we get to meet each character and learn a little about them through monologues, song and dance. It was quite groundbreaking for its day and it still holds up for today’s audiences.”
Barba, however, was glad to take on the challenge.
“Our February slot is usually reserved for a ‘smaller’ show (in the theater, ‘smaller’ is relative) and we were asked to try to pick a season of ‘name’ shows, or shows that have a following,” Barba said. “Every season I do get to choose the show that I want to direct, and I put ‘A Chorus Line’ on my list. Lately we have had a lot of regulars that want to do dance heavy shows (i.e. ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Cabaret’), and I knew we had the talent that could fill the cast and do a great job with the material.”
Leading that group is UDT regular Josey Mitchell (Evita in “Evita,” Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins,” Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes”) as Cassie. She performs the “Music and the Mirror” song and dance solo in the show, and is the show’s choreographer.
“One of the biggest challenges is being in the show at the same time,” Mitchell said. “There comes a point where I have to switch off choreographer and have to just be Cassie. The challenge of my role is that it is so much like my own life story that it is very personal and raw for me. I’m excited to represent who she is for so many dancers like myself.”
Other UDT regulars include: Paul (and dance captain) – Derrick Cintron; Ritchie – Rudy Melendez; Sheila – Sarah Pagano; Diana – Lizbeth Pineda; Mike – Jorge Blakely; Mark – Alvaro Callejas; Kristine – Becca Vargas; Greg – Henry Del Toro; Don – John Levick; Bobby – Jeffrey Quintana; Val – Katie Harding; Judy – Tania Hernandez; Connie – Jensen Springer; and Laurie – Kaelin Walker. Zach, the director in the show is portrayed by Edward Gallardo III, who returns to the UDT stage after a long break. Newcomers are Allysa Donnely as Maggie; Laura Mae Klinger as Bebe and Jean-Andre Moore as Al.
“My biggest joy in this process is watching these performers ‘create’ their characters and their performances,” Barba said. “I have been at the Dinner Theatre for over 25 years (hair and wig designer since 1992, UDT costume designer since 2006), so I see these same performers come in as novice performers and grow into experienced actors. This show is a great vehicle for the musical theater performer to get a ‘meaty’ character — a character with some substance and with a back story. I love to see one of the cast members bring these characters to life and put their own spin on it.”
Barba wants people to understand that because of the depth and backstories required of each character, “A Chorus Line” is unique in musical theater.
“It has the same elements but it is presented in a completely different way. It’s a little more edgy. There is a little more substance to the characters and the stories. There are definitely adult themes and situations that most musicals do not even tackle.”
“There are many themes that were brought up by this show in the ‘70s when it first came out that are now once again in the spotlight: Women’s rights, LGBTQ equality and the reality that for all of us our time is limited,” Mitchell said.
Barba added that “You are going to hear things that might make some people uncomfortable. But it is all done to show the humanity in people.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School.
UTEP Dinner Theatre presents “A Chorus Line” Jan. 26-Feb. 11. Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt.
Feature storyCopyright 2018 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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