The Show Is On The Road: ‘A Chorus Line’ launches from Walton Arts Center

The Show Is On The Road: ‘A Chorus Line’ launches from Walton Arts Center
MONICA HOOPER
mhooper@nwadg.com

Before the tip of the first gold-glittered hat, Dan Sher will be clocking lights, music and more at the Walton Arts Center as “A Chorus Line” prepares to take the show to Japan after a short four-show run June 24-26 in Fayetteville.

The president of Big League Productions Inc. says that when the technical team does their job right, no one even notices.

“The show doesn’t even exist without teching it,” Sher posits. “It’s like a car nowadays without the computer system. … You have the parts in there, but if they don’t talk to each other, the car just won’t go.”

Sher says that people think that live shows are “more spontaneous” than they are when, in reality, there are hundreds of moving parts that have to be choreographed before the curtain rises.

“You have maybe 200 lights in the air, and they’re all going a certain direction and pointing at something and then moving in time to go to another actor or 17 actors who are moving in one direction” while the sound to each microphone has to be calibrated to project three voices over five others — which is only the tip of the musical iceberg in terms of coordinating the stage show alone.

“Even if it is spontaneous and live and happening, it’s all thought through with a microscope,” Sher says. “It all has to be dissected. You can see a moment that might take two minutes to show — a section where all sorts of dancing is happening, all sorts of singing and lights flashing and scenery moving. That two minutes sometimes can take an entire four hours on the stage just working through,” before audiences see it, he explains. “It’s a very, very involved process to technically rehearse a musical, which you don’t realize, thankfully, when you watch it, or you’d be really bored. … We hope you barely realize that lights are programmed to do what they’re doing. You just think it’s kind of just all happening. So that’s the magic of theater, I would like to think.”

When getting a show ready to tour, teching involves planning the show for other spaces too.

“There is a specific way that you have to put a show together so that it can pack up to go on a truck,” Sher explains, “because [when] you get to the next venue, and you open the trucks, you have 50 individuals who don’t know what’s on the truck, and you have your maybe 15 people telling them what to do.” He goes on to say that “it takes a very specific, scrutinizing kind of process to diagram out and create a show to tour.”

This is the 12th tour to be launched from the WAC, the second time for “A Chorus Line,” which was first launched from Fayetteville in 1997. “It’s a wonderful place to mount musicals, it’s a wonderful place to just bring musicals to full stop, and particularly wonderful place to put them together from a production and tech standpoint,” Sher enthuses.

He has worked behind the scenes on collaborations with Disney on Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” (North America, Taiwan and China), and with Cameron Mackintosh on “Miss Saigon.” He has also worked behind the scenes of “The Producers,” “My Fair Lady,” “Dreamgirls,” “Hair,” “An American in Paris” and so many more.

He says that the TV station, TBS, in Japan was “determined that they wanted to celebrate the reopening of Japan with ‘A Chorus Line,’ because it’s one of the most beloved shows in the country.”

Often credited with “saving Broadway” and its longest running show, “A Chorus Line” was directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett with the music composed by Marvin Hamlisch. The story is based on a group of dancers who tell a director why they are auditioning for a new show on Broadway. Prior to its July 25, 1975, release attendance at Broadway shows was at almost an all-time low of around 6.6 million. After “A Chorus Line,” those figures rose to 8.8 million.

With 24 dates scheduled, “A Chorus Line” planners are hoping to bring back audiences in a big way, too.

“I think it has particular emotional appeal now that we’re back on stage doing what we all love to do,” Sher says.

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FAQ

‘A Chorus Line’

WHEN — 8 p.m. June 24; 3 & 8 p.m. June 25; 2 p.m. June 26

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

TICKETS — $33-$62

INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org

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FYI

Create Your Own Subscription

The “Create Your Own Subscription” package is available now for the 2022-23 Walton Arts Center season. Patrons may choose shows from any series (except for Starrlight Jazz Club and West Street Live) to make their own three-, five- or seven-show subscription package. Create Your Own subscribers also get early access to the season’s shows before single tickets go on sale, early access to new shows added throughout the year and discounts on most shows, including Broadway.

Visit waltonartscenter.org for more information.

Categories: Theater