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A singular sensation

Whanita Dow stars in and directs the Broadway classic A Chorus Line, opening Thursday.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 28, 2003

[Times photo: Maurice Rivenbark]
Lucas Cyr, as Mike, takes front and center during a rehersal for A Chorus Line.

SPRING HILL -- When it debuted on Broadway in 1975, the musical A Chorus Line became a "singular sensation," speaking to an entire generation not only about theater, but about life.

Beginning Thursday, Stage West Community Playhouse will present the show, which revolves around a Broadway audition. For many years, the show held the record as the longest-running Broadway production in history.

"You name it, this show talks about it," said Whanita Dow, who plays Cassie, an older dancer trying to make it alongside the young and the beautiful. "It deals with troubles with dad, homosexuality, all of it."

The show's premise is unique: a chorus dancers' audition on the bare stage of a Broadway theater. The early stages of the call are finished, and from a mass of hopefuls only 26 remain. After its opening in 1975 at the Shubert Theatre in New York, the show ran for 15 years and had 6,137 performances.

Dow, who also choreographed the production, said she can relate well with her character since dancers' lives can be short-lived if they are injured or simply get too old.

"We're both older than everybody else on the line," Dow said about her character. "I'm going to hit 40 in June, and I'm dancing next to 20-year-olds. It's nice to know I can keep up with them."

Another thing she and her character share is a desire to be the one on stage -- not the one waiting in the wings.

"Cassie says what she really doesn't want is a handout, and what she deeply doesn't want is to be teaching other people to do what she should be doing herself," Dow said. "I know just how that feels."

In fact, Dow and her husband, Jeff, are working toward their goal of entering the United Stages Ballroom Dance Association's national competition.

"That is something that has always been a dream of mine," said Dow, who will sing The Music and the Mirror, a song in the show about what performers do for the love of theater.

Sharing the stage will be Emily Taylor, who plays Val, a fairly young dancer who has had cosmetic surgery to "augment" her appeal. She explains her philosophy on success as a dancer in Dance Ten, Looks Three.

"This is such a great show, and everybody I know said they thought I should try out for this part," said Taylor, a 21-year-old dance instructor. "We all have something in common with our characters. The topics are universal."

If you go

WHAT: The musical A Chorus Line

WHERE: Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill

WHEN: Opens Thursday and continues Thursdays and weekends through March 23. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays.

ADMISSION: Tickets are $16. The theater's box office is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and one hour before each show.

INFORMATION: Call 352-683-5113.

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