As the University continues to navigate its first full year without masks since the beginning of the pandemic, performing arts groups on Grounds are working hard to dazzle returning audiences. One of these groups, Spectrum Theatre, is gearing up for its production of “A Chorus Line” this November.
In its 16th year of operation, Spectrum Theatre is an independent, student-run theater organization that puts on a show each semester. This year, they’ve taken on an exciting but daunting task — delivering a crowd-pleasing performance of a Broadway classic.
“A Chorus Line” first opened on Broadway in 1975. It follows the lives of dancers on Broadway as they strive to snag a role and find success. The show’s dazzling musical numbers and emotional monologues make it a favorite among musical theater lovers.
Danait Haddish, director of “A Chorus Line,” producer of Spectrum and third-year College student, felt this show was the perfect fit for the group.
“I knew a lot of people really loved it,” Haddish said. “Then I looked into it, and I just thought the story was really beautiful … Everyone has an individual story and moment, and it’s universal but also so personal to each character.”
A defining feature of “A Chorus Line” is its focus on ensemble members — the often overlooked actors who take on the unnamed roles in musicals. Caroline Simmons, cast member and fourth-year College student, notes this as one of her favorite aspects of the show.
“There’s so much dancing in musical theater,” Simmons said. “But very rarely, I feel like, do you get a look at what it’s like to be a dancer in musical theater.”
Like with any production, the cast has dedicated many hours to rehearsing for the show. The cast meets five days a week, with each day focusing on a specific song or section. Despite the immense time commitment, Mary Hall, cast member and second-year College student, said each rehearsal is very rewarding.
“Every person in the room is so hell-bent on making it a great show,” Hall said. “Not to the point where we’re stressing each other out … It’s still such a supportive environment.”
Spectrum has been a vital part of the University’s performing arts scene since its founding in 2004.
Being run by students allows Spectrum to maintain a sense of equal standing among its members. Haddish praises this aspect of Spectrum because it removes the power dynamic between cast member and director.
“We’re all on the same playing field,” Haddish said. “It definitely feels a lot more open to collaboration.”
Hall also expressed her appreciation for this close working relationship. She mentioned that this environment differed greatly from the one in her high school, where cast members were given very little freedom to interpret their characters.
“Specifically with Spectrum, you get so much of a say … on how your character is doing XYZ, and costumes and stuff like that,” Hall said. “It’s very cool to have that different experience where you get to work with the director to combine their directorial vision and your vision to make [the show] the best you possibly can.”
In addition to collaboration, Spectrum also encourages diversity in its work. According to its website, the organization is “dedicated to producing influential theater that stimulates conversation about important issues.” The group strives to center the stories of marginalized groups — something the theater world desperately needs, Hall said.
“There’s a certain point in theater where people don’t feel like they can fit in, especially queer, trans, Black, or Indigenous people of color,” Hall said. “[Spectrum] is all about pulling away from that and doing shows that make you challenge your position in the world.”
Spectrum Theater not only serves as an organization that puts on shows. It is also a place where like-minded people can build a community. In this way, a show like “A Chorus Line” — one where a diverse set of performers are brought together by their mutual love of theater — is perfect for Spectrum.
“[The characters] have very different stories and very different things to say about those stories, but they’re all special,” Simmons said. “And the chorus line wouldn’t be the same without each and every one of them.”
Spectrum Theatre’s “A Chorus Line” will perform on Thursday, Nov. 3, Friday, Nov. 4 and Sunday, Nov. 6 in the Student Activities Building.