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|‘Chorus Line, ‘Ugly Duckling’ offer local takes on well-known stories|
|Written by Jim Farmer|
|Friday, 22 July 2011 00:00|
While it has played in Atlanta a few times over the last two years as a touring show, a local version of “A Chorus Line” is a rare thing indeed. That changes soon as the gay-themed musical opens at Aurora Theatre to begin the company’s 16th season.
The celebrated musical is known for its iconic images of a group of dancers auditioning and baring their souls all for the chance to be in the chorus line of a musical, as well as its standout musical numbers. Yet its inclusion of three-dimensional gay characters is still relevant, given that “A Chorus Line” debuted in an era — 1975 — where few gay characters were onstage.
Many of the actors in this cast are gay. Two of them are Anthony Owen, who plays Bobby Mills, and David Rossetti, who plays Paul San Marco. Both of the characters they portray are gay, too, although Bobby’s sexual orientation is never mentioned directly in the show.
Both performers relate to their characters, who deal with being gay in contrasting styles. According to Owen, Bobby is catty and bitchy and not always truthful.
“He lies – he has one foot in reality,” Owen says. “You can’t tell if what he is saying is made up.”
Rossetti’s Paul is trying to learn to be a man.
“Paul is a good dancer, but he doesn’t like to talk about himself,” Rossetti says. “He came out at 14 and is trying to figure it out.”
The character has battled a troubled childhood and disapproving parents, yet Rossetti loves the fact that he is comfortable to be who he is that early in life.
“A Chorus Line” has been around so long that it can be taken granted. While both Owen and Rossetti had seen versions of it, it wasn’t until they took on their roles that they delved into the history of the show and its cultural significance. Creator Michael Bennett based his musical on stories told to him by colleagues and dancers. Of course, it later went on to win nine Tony Awards and is the longest running American Broadway musical of all time.
Rossetti moved from Atlanta to be part of the “Hairspray” national tour and then settled into New York a year later. He still lives there and laughs that he is “on loan” for this production. He is able to make a living as a New York actor and choreographer, he says, although it isn’t easy.
Both he and Owen know what it is like to audition and the time and toll it can take. Although auditioning anywhere is stressful, being an actor in New York is especially tough, says Rossetti.
“It’s not uncommon for colleagues to go on 15 or so callbacks and still not get a job,” he admits.
Although the characters in the musical have different backgrounds, Owen feels that they are universal. “
There are so many people in the line,” he says. “It’s hard not to relate to one of those people, but who you relate to can change during the course of the show.”
‘The Ugly Duckling’ retold
Brian Clowdus has opened a world premiere of the classic “The Ugly Duckling” at his Serenbe Playhouse, where he serves as the artistic director. Clowdus, who is gay, says he decided to stage the show in response to the bullying that has drawn headlines locally and nationally over the last year.
“The Ugly Duckling” is a children’s tale but done here with some modern twists. Serenbe, known for its authentic locations, will have its main character coming in and out of a real lake. Half animal/half human dancers also appear courtesy of Brooks and Co. dance troupe.
Top photo: Inspired by recent headlines about bullying, Serenbe Playhouse is mounting a modern retelling of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ with an outdoor performance that includes scenes in a real lake. (Photo courtesy Serenbe)
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