re: Did the original production of A Chorus Line just refuse to audition black women and Asian men?
Posted by: reed23 04:31 am EDT 05/23/21
In reply to: Did the original production of A Chorus Line just refuse to audition black women and Asian men? - bobby2 11:56 pm EDT 05/22/21

Add to the above list (Ronald Dennis and Baayork Lee) – Priscilla Lopez's parents were both Puerto Rican, and her ethnicity is specifically mentioned in her song and dialogue.

Don Percassi, born Donaldo Ricardo Michaele Umberto Percassi, was at least one cast member of Italian descent (I assume Robert LuPone was another, to say nothing of Michael Bennett DiFiglia.) Clive Clerk was born in Trinidad, and his first role was as Wang San in the road company of "Flower Drum Song." Sammy Williams, whose mother's name was Nona Dibella, played the Puerto Rican character of Paul, much of which was based on the life of the show's co-author, Nicholas Dante (born Conrado Morales, of Puerto Rican parents.) – Sammy Williams' actual story was handed to the character of Mike ("I Can Do That.") Candy Brown was in the first workshops of A CHORUS LINE, but ultimately took her role in CHICAGO instead (which went into rehearsal in late 1974, at full Broadway salaries, as opposed to the pittance paid by the Public for the CHORUS LINE workshops.) Ron Dennis has described his CHORUS LINE story as drawn half from his own life, and half of Candy Brown's "gimme the ball" story.

According to a NY Times interview with Michael Bennett, after the Public Theatre smash but before the show opened on Broadway: "Bennett himself had lots of practice at this in the course of casting his show, looking for 'the best dancers I could find, who could also act.' He estimates that more than 300 dancers tried out for fewer than a dozen roles‐truly a case of life reflecting art reflecting life."

The script was culled from two all-night sessions with 24 top dancers invited by Tony Stevens and Michael Bennett. They had no idea at the time that they were laying the groundwork for a musical production (much less one of the most successful of all time.) It was at that time, a year and a half before rehearsals, that the die was cast in terms of the participants who provided their stories, and the long evolution of those stories into the final script of what was eventually titled A CHORUS LINE.

Only half, at most, of the original talk-session participants – for a number of reasons.

Affirmative-action casting ideas being discussed today in various corners were completely unknown until very recently. Not actively subscribing to those ideas, still decades in the future, did and does not brand yesterday’s theatrical figures racists – an unusual allegation to slam on Michael Bennett, the stager of the multi-ethnic SEESAW, to say nothing of DREAMGIRLS.

Framing 1975’s CHORUS LINE and CHICAGO were TREEMONISHA, 1974’s THE WIZ and DR. JAZZ, and 1976’s GUYS & DOLLS, BUBBLING BROWN SUGAR, YOUR ARMS TOO SHORT TO BOX WITH GOD, PACIFIC OVERTURES, and ROCKABYE HAMLET, among others. The mid-Seventies saw a significant embrace of ethnic variety in both writing, creative staff, and performing talent.

Previous: can't you ask this of ANY play or musical with a cast of characters who are the specific races they are and not other races they aren't? (nm) - Chazwaza 01:07 pm EDT 05/23/21
Next: re: Did the original production of A Chorus Line just refuse to audition black women and Asian men? - AlanScott 04:08 pm EDT 05/26/21

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