The last time the 24/7 Dance Studio in Frederick presented a show that included some adult content was “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in 2007. Then for various reasons a shortage of bookable space, the loss of a director the school took a break for a while to focus on its programs for younger dancers. But now with Joseph Mannarino as the new director, the pre-professional dance program for ages 16 to 28 is back with a production of “A Chorus Line.”
“He just graduated and wanted to do this, so we decided to give it a shot,” says co-director and studio owner Gina Korrell.
The show, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday at the Frederick Cultural Arts Center, is intended for mature audiences and parental supervision is recommended for children under 16. Some of the dancers’ stories refer to unhappy childhoods and sexual awakenings.
The 1975 one-act production, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, who died Aug. 6, is about a group of dancers auditioning for jobs in the chorus line of a Broadway show. “A Chorus Line” is based on stories told by real dancers to authors of the show.
“The writing is very well done, I think because it’s real,” says Mannarino, who recently returned from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he studied composition.
The dancers perform on a bare stage marked with a white line, with suspended mirrors at the rear of the stage.
Eager to be hired, the tryout group of more than 20 dancers opens the show with the song, “I Hope I Get It.” Zach, the director (Dalton Korrell), then begins to cull the hopefuls down to a final cast, asking them to talk about themselves and why they like to dance.
“It’s funny, and it’s also sad,” says Mannarino about the variety and emotional power of the personal accounts. “We did a lot of in-depth character work,” he says.
For this production, Mannarino added a character who is not in the Broadway version. The Shadow Dancer (Page Pierce) dances silently on stage during many of the songs, including “At the Ballet” and “Music and the Mirror.” In addition to providing another visual element for the audience, she represents the idealized image of a dancer, tall with long legs, in contrast to the various body types of the aspiring cast.
“I was thinking about what it means to be a dancer, and a lot of that is image,” Mannarino says.
Silently interacting with the dancers, Pierce also expresses in a physical way what the dancers are feeling and saying.
Playing the part of Richie, who nearly became a kindergarten teacher, is college student Charlie Cizek, 21, of Frederick.
“He’s really enthusiastic and a lit bit cocky,” says Cizek, who sings “Gimme the Ball” with other dancers and also has a dance solo.
Art mimics life, as Cizek, who is studying music education at Towson University, also hopes to perform on Broadway.
“This production pushed me in terms of dance,” says Cizek, who says he only started dancing about five years ago. “It’s been a really good learning experience,” he says, one reason being that in the 24/7 pre-professional program, dancers take on more responsibility than the school’s younger students for mastering the material.
“It’s the cast’s responsibility to learn more of the music and the dance and be prepared,” he says.
Playing the part of Diana Morales is Samantha Eyler, also 21, who sings “Nothing,” about a bad high-school acting class.
“My character is sassy at first, but she’s covering up a little insecurity because she had a teacher that tore her down, and that stuck with her,” Morales says.
Like Cizek, Eyler also signed up for “A Chorus Line” for the dance experience.
“I wanted to try to challenge myself,” says Eyler, a musical theater major at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa.
“I’m learning a lot about picking up dances quickly,” she says.
After graduating, Eyler plans to head to Chicago to look for a job, just like the character she plays.
“There’s a lot of nonunion work; it’s a good place to start,” she says. Eyler says she also sings the lead in “What I Did for Love,” about the dancers’ passion for the craft.
“It’s such a powerful song in my opinion and how emotionally you deliver it,” she says.
Then comes the iconic closing number, “One,” where the dancers sing and take their bows.
“There are a couple of heavy moments in the show, but overall, it’s very uplifting,” Cizek says.