This is the city of Broadway, off-Broadway, and off-off Broadway. From old standards to experimental pieces, you can take in every kind of musical in New York City. And you’ll find the same energy and range in musical theatre at NYU. Here, students and faculty run countless performances every year. And there are opportunities for you to get involved regardless of your background. Recently, students from many NYU schools and majors joined forces to put on A Chorus Line, a show which, according to student director Maya Lopez, is in and of itself “a love letter to theatre.”
Exploring Personal Connections to Theatre
“During one of our first rehearsals, I sat down with the full cast. I asked them to close their eyes,” says Maya. She is an Educational Theatre major, and she directed this show through A Class Act, a Steinhardt music education club. “I told them to think of the moment that they fell in love with theatre. Then, we shared our experiences one by one around the circle. Some stories were funny, some were sad, some were heartwarming, and everywhere in between.” After everyone shared, she revealed that this process was the same one that inspired the script of A Chorus Line.
Why did she want to recreate the process with this NYU musical theatre group? “The sense of community, the array of emotions, and the complicated relationship that many have with theatre not only bonded the cast but also tied them to the stories of their characters,” she explains. “We approached the show as if it were a love letter to theatre.”
An Opportunity to Branch Out
A Chorus Line had a cast of more than 20 people. Some performers in this NYU musical theatre production were Educational Theatre majors from Steinhardt and Drama majors from Tisch. But many represented other schools and disciplines.
“When thinking about auditioning, I realized that this show might be my last chance to do student theatre,” says Keanan Pucci. He played Al DeLuca and is a recent graduate of the Game Design major. “I really wasn’t sure I had the training or talent to make it in. I hadn’t taken a dance class since high school. And I truly didn’t think I was a good enough dancer to make it into this show. I’m so glad the production team didn’t feel that way,” Keanan shares. “Rehearsal was a breath of fresh air for me, because most of my day is spent staring at a screen. Getting to dance, sing, and act with people giving their all despite whatever had happened throughout the day was invigorating and inspiring.”
For Matthew James, a Gallatin student who planned to concentrate in concert design, the show was a way to get back in touch with a lifelong hobby. “I wanted to participate in something where I could meet people and also get back into performing,” he explains. Matthew played Mark Anthony in the show. “The rehearsal process made me more confident with myself as a performer. And the student production team did such an amazing job. I loved witnessing their choices, learning why they made each one, and thinking to myself what I might have done differently or similarly.”
Finding Friends and Fostering Community
Ethan Slater, a Business and Marketing major at NYU Shanghai, was studying abroad at NYU in New York City when he saw the call to audition for A Chorus Line. “The main reason I decided to audition was because I wanted to meet people,” says Ethan. He didn’t have many NYU Shanghai classmates studying in New York City at the same time as him. “I figured I could make some new friends. Additionally, I’ve always had a passion for acting. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to act right off Broadway.” Ultimately, he landed the role of Zach and fostered lasting friendships. “I feel like I truly gained a New York family,” he says. “They all took me in and made me feel welcomed.”
“I’ve always found clubs are a fantastic way to make friends,” adds Keanan. “At a university like NYU, it helps to find the smaller communities you want to be a part of. Even if, like me, you’re not studying theatre, NYU student theatre has wide open arms and is such a rewarding experience.”
The Show Must Go On(line)
NYU transitioned to remote learning in the middle of the semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, that meant A Chorus Line never got its moment in front of an audience. But musical theatre at NYU is about learning, so the process is just as important as the product. “I could go on and on about each cast member because they all truly brought their heart and soul into this show,” says Maya. “In the end, I wanted them to love this show just as much as I do.” And she accomplished her mission. Here, the cast joined up for one last Zoom session to say a fond farewell to the show.