When you're working on the ultimate Broadway show, it's nice to feel that you have the originator's blessing.
That's Jeremiah Ginn's take on the national tour of "A Chorus Line" directed by Baayork Lee. Lee not only was in the original cast, playing Connie, when the musical debuted in 1975, she was also director-choreographer Michael Bennett's assistant choreographer and the person to whom he passed the torch.
"On opening night, he said, 'Baayork, I give this show to you as a gift, and you will take this show to the world, and you will choreograph it, and you will teach it to people and preserve it,' and that's what she's been doing ever since," says Ginn. "She is the guru of Michael Bennett's 'A Chorus Line.' "
Knoxville performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Tennessee Theatre. Tickets ($37-$77) are available at the box office, www.tennesseetheatre.com and 865-656-4444.
"A Chorus Line" opened at the Public Theatre in New York in May 1975 and moved to the Shubert Theatre two months later, playing for nearly 15 years. Its 6,137 performances made it the longest-running American musical in Broadway history for 28 years, until "Chicago" beat its record.
The plot features a tough director, Zach (Ginn), auditioning dancers for a show, grilling them on their life stories as well as their dancing skills.
" 'Chorus Line' is based on real people," says Ginn by phone during a tour stop in Alto, N.M. "The character of Sheila was really Kelly Bishop, and Donna McKechnie is spread throughout a couple of different characters. Even parts of Michael Bennett's life are spread throughout characters in the show.
"Baayork is Connie. That is her story about being 4-foot-10 and wanting to be a prima ballerina and wishing that she could be Maria Tallchief and not being able to do that because she was so short. These are real people, and they were her friends, and they were her colleagues. We really got the inside scoop from the source."
Lee isn't on the road with the company, but she stays in constant contact, and she prepped the cast with rehearsals in New York.
"A Chorus Line" is Ginn's first national tour. He moved to New York after graduating last April from Brigham Young University and immediately started auditioning. He landed "A Chorus Line" four months later.
Ginn says he isn't anything like his character.
"I'm the exact opposite from Zach," he says. "I'm the most happy-go-lucky, smiling, friendly man."
He also isn't the theater veteran Zach is, but at 26 he's not a "bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 21-year-old" like most recent college graduates. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he did the traditional two-year mission for his church and also took a break from school to perform on a cruise ship for a year.
Ginn grew up in Windsor, a small town in Northern California, and he started taking piano lessons at an early age. He was always fascinated with dancing, but his mother wouldn't let him take lessons until after he got involved in theater.
"Luckily, I had great experiences through college and was able to be in a couple of dance companies there and really hone my skills," he says. "Now here I am in what is, like, the dance show of Broadway musicals."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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