SPRINGFIELD, NJ — On Tuesday afternoon, with just over two weeks to go before opening night, the stage of Halsey Hall Auditorium at Jonathan Dayton High School was abuzz.
Dancers worked through their routine, as a choreographer watched, ready to send any underperforming attendees home. Far from being a cutthroat reality competition, that audition itself is the plot of this year's Spring Musical, "A Chorus Line."
The classic Broadway show follows a number of performers, as they audition to land spots in a show. Throughout the run of the musical, each of the main characters reveal the hidden journeys that led them to this point.
At this last juncture before the show, Director Paige Matt and members of the cast shared their thoughts about the production. For Matt, this is her first year taking the helm truly solo. Matt took over last year after regular director Ashley Bauers went out on maternity leave.
Bauers helped Matt through the work as she picked and directed the cast through Urinetown, but with the responsibility solely in her hands this year, Matt wanted to pick a show that would engage her cast.
“Being totally on my own, I noticed in the last couple of years that the kids are craving drama, and they wanted to be challenged and pushed," Matt said. "And Chorus Line is definitely a show that will do that ... I think they wanted something a bit more dramatic. Not necessarily dark, but at least challenging them in more of a dramatic aspect versus musically or choreographically, even though this show does both of those as well.”
Matt also had nothing but praise for her cast and crew, as she noted they have put their heart and soul into the show.
"I think that not only their talent level, but their dedication and their passion to the craft of theater is something that I did not certainly experience in high school or have seen really in doing community theater and things like that," Matt said. "To be at the age that they are and still act somewhat maturely about the process of doing a show and being dedicated to it, and having the responsibility of knowing what to do.
"Just the fact that they all want to put on such a good show. None of them are really doing this as an extracurricular after school activity that they just have somewhere to go they all want it to be the best success that it can, and want to make it look great. And they’re so talented.”
One of those cast members is senior Jordan Sievert, who plays Cassie Ferguson in the production. As Seivert explained, her character is a veteran of this level of theater, who has dreams of being a bigger star, but needs the money. She also said that her character also has an unresolved romantic entanglement that makes her audition more difficult.
"Basically, years ago, she was in the chorus line, and her director Zach, they were dating," Sievert said. "And they broke up, and she moved to California to try to be an actor. And it didn't work, so she came back to New York, and she tried for the chorus line again.
"But she's been doing this for 17 years, she's very good at it, and Zach, they have some tension in the show. She doesn't think that she belongs. She thinks she can do better, but she's like "No, I need a job, I need money, I need this, and I think I could be a part of this.'"
She also took the time to reflect back on her tenure in the theater department, as she gets set to take the stage for the final time in her high school career.
"Starting as a freshman, I really learned a lot," Sievert said. "And I met so many amazing people that are now my best friends. It just shows [me] so much growth from where I started to now, and I feel like I grew a lot and am really appreciative of it."
Another cast member who spoke with TAPinto was junior Aaliyah Ellison, who plays Dianna Morales. Ellison walked through the motivations of her character, and said that for Morales in the musical, her desire to make it comes from a deep-seated need to make it.
"Dianna always wanted to be an actress," Ellison said. "And when she went to high school, she tried to fit in with all the other aspiring actors and actresses. And her teacher would always say, 'No, you're not good enough. You don't know how to fit in like everybody else.' And so she overcame that hardship, and still went after what she believed in, and didn't listen to what other people said."
As for the real-life actress behind the one on stage, Ellison was overjoyed to be able to do this show, a feeling that is contagious among other members of the cast.
"I was really excited," Ellison said. "Chorus Line is definitely one of the dream shows to be in. It's so iconic. And every theater nerd would just love to be in A Chorus Line."
"A Chorus Line" will play over the course of two weekends this month; March 20 at 7:00 p.m., March 21 at 2:00 p.m., March 27 at 7:00 p.m. and March 28 at 7:00 p.m. Theatergoers can visit the following website to purchase tickets for each of the shows: https://jdhsachorusline.brownpapertickets.com/