The presentation of A Chorus Line by the Savannah College of Art and Design is more than a production -- it’s a tribute. The musical, which opens April 20 at the Lucas Theatre, is directed by Jeffrey DeVincent, professor of media and performing arts. He has a special fondness for A Chorus Line. “It was the first Broadway show I ever saw, in 1976,” DeVincent says. “I would have been 10 years old at the time. “My parents took me. My parents loved to tell the story that I sat through the entire 2 hours and 15 minutes with my jaw open. “It was the best experience of my life and it changed my life,” DeVincent says. “It was so brilliantly done, with the staging and the choreography.” A Chorus Line opened July 25, 1975 at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway. It closed April 28, 1990 after 6,137 performances, making it the longest running Broadway musical of the 20th century. The show was created by Michael Bennett, one of Broadway’s greatest choreographers, who wanted to honor a dancer’s life. Before A Chorus Line, he was awarded three Tony Awards for his work in Follies and Seesaw. A Chorus Line went on to earn nine Tonys in 1976. Bennett won two for Best Director of a Musical and Best Choreographer. There’s no standard plot; rather, A Chorus Line follows a group of “gypsies,” as veteran dancers on Broadway are known, as they audition for the chorus line of a Broadway show in hopes of succeeding in the face of overwhelming odds. “This is the show,” DeVincent says. “I have done an incredible amount of research. I wanted to do the production as an honor to those who worked to bring it to life. It is an homage in honor of the people who were on the line. It has been an exciting experience for me. I wanted to dedicate my work and honor them.” The SCAD production has a cast of 32. “Seventeen of them actually make it to the line,” DeVincent says. The students in the cast range in age from 18 to 30, so the only version of the Broadway hit they have seen is the movie version, which DeVincent cannot compare to the original version. “It is pretty terrible,” he says. A professional production of A Chorus Line will be presented in San Francisco later this year in celebration of the musical’s 30th anniversary. It will be directed by an original cast member from the Broadway production. Until then, this may be the only chance to see A Chorus Line as it is meant to be seen. The show makes people excited and energized, DeVincent says. “That is why this has touched so many people,” he says. “A Chorus Line truly changed the course of the American theater,” DeVincent says. “Unfortunately, the only record of it is either in memory or in that film, which really doesn’t do it justice.” DeVincent’s students have been transformed by A Chorus Line. Perhaps the transformation is not as dramatic as his own, but it is there. “They had no idea why A Chorus Line received the accolades and awards it did,” DeVincent says. “Now they understand why it was so important and why it still is. “We have attempted to capture the original fervor of the show,” he says. “It has a pace and energy like audiences are never going to see in musical theater.”
The Savannah College of Art and Design media and performing arts department will present A Chorus Line April 20-22 and 27-29 at 8 p.m. and April 23 and 30 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the general public, $5 for seniors and students with a valid ID and free with a SCAD ID and can be purchased at the SCAD box office at 216 E. Broughton St., charged by phone by calling 525-5050 or purchased online at www.scadboxoffice.com.