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Interview with John Carroll, one of A Chorus Line's singular sensations
Interview with John Carroll, one of A Chorus Line's singular sensations
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

A Chorus Line
August 5-10
Paramount Theatre


A Chorus Line has practically become a standard for Americana musicals and part of any good theater fan's collection. Boasting such great classics as "What I Did For Love," "The Music and the Mirror," "Dance 10 - Looks 3" (commonly known as "Tits and Ass"), and, of course, the runaway hit song "One," have all helped to make it one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. The creative team behind it boasted such musical geniuses as James Kirkwood (author), Marvin Hamlisch (composer), Edward Kleban (lyrics), Joseph Papp (producer) and the man who directed, co-choreographed and helped to conceive the show, the great impresario Michael Bennett. The show broke all previous records going on to win nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1975) and after 6,137 performances, a Golden Tony Award for becoming the longest-running show in history (1984), a title it would hold for many years to come. In 2006 it was remounted in New York City (where it is still running) and was nominated for two more Tony Awards in the following season.

Currently, the professional touring company is traveling the country and will be returning to Seattle's Paramount Theater August 5-10. In a show that has no major roles, the Seattle Gay News interviewed one of the leading performers John Carroll, for a Q&A on the show and its success.

< b>EricAndrews-Katz: What do you think is the appeal of A Chorus Line that originally made it such a huge success?

John Carroll: That can be summed up in one word: passion. The show is completely about dancers at an audition and the passion they show for their work. But it crosses over into a broader spectrum applying to anyone that wants a dream. What you put "on the line" for your dream and all the ways one goes to make them come true. People think the song "What I Did For Love" is a love song, but it's about exactly that; what we're willing to do for the love of our dreams.

Andrews-Katz: How does the original production differ from the current one in terms of relevance to today's audience?

Carroll: It's very much the same show. Today's audiences are used to huge musicals, things blowing up on stage, and large sets that are distracting from the book or the music. Our show has nothing to hide behind. There aren't any real sets except for the dancing mirrors. The actors are the stars and their vulnerability is present. We all get to be artists with nothing else to rely on. As performers that makes us work that much harder. The audience gets to be voyeuristic, watching the dancers audition to be members of the show.

Andrews-Katz: What other changes have been made since the 1975 original debut?

Carroll: There are a couple of lines changed for the times to make it more modernized. As the saying goes, "If it's not broke, don't fix it."

Andrews-Katz: Your character, Larry, is sort of a dance captain for The Line. In what ways do you identify with your character?

Carroll: I think I can relate to the character because we both have strong dance backgrounds. Knowing the choreography is only part of it, but both of us have to help teach it to others. Also we have to keep calm, steady heads while others around us are getting riled.

Andrews-Katz: In what ways do you differ from your character?

Carroll: I'm much better looking than Larry.

Andrews-Katz: What different dance challenges does A Chorus Line present opposed to your past work in Fosse musicals Chicago, Fosse, etc.?

Carroll: Oh they're very different. Michael Bennett's choreography is completely different from Bob Fosse's. A Chorus Line is more of a traditional show. When the curtain opens, we're shot out of a cannon in the opening scene. Our characters all have to work hard to audition for the show. The opening combination dance number is iconic. You have to capture the audience from the beginning and give the audience what they want. The stamina for the show is different from others.

Andrews-Katz: On your website, you've mentioned that one of your icons is the Seattle native Ann Reinking. In your eyes, what makes her stand out?

Carroll: She is a dancing goddess! She stands out in the way she approaches movement. Usually there is one [person] who stands out in a show, and Anne Reinking is that person. She does things without changing the choreography that brings all eyes to her without scratching, clawing or stealing the show.

Andrews-Katz: Your poster picture for Broadway Bares: Equity Fights AIDS is very artistic, to say the least. How did you get involved with the organization?

Carroll: It's an amazing organization. Broadway Bares is just one of the events they [Equity Fights AIDS] does. Jerry Mitchell was one of the originals behind it and he wanted to create a modern day burlesque to raise money for the cause. It goes on every year and last year they raised over $850,000. The director Dennis Jones is a friend of mine and asked me to join. I couldn't do the show because of scheduling, but my poster was everywhere.

Andrews-Katz: Do you get to pick your theme or do they assign it to you?

Carroll: It's all assigned, and mine was the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. For me it was a dream come true. It took more than four hours to get covered in the green paint, and more than two hours to get it off. There were three people scrubbing me down afterwards.

Andrews-Katz: With your work in the musical Chicago, Frontier Magazine and Broadway Bares, you obviously have little hesitance about being undressed in front of an audience or camera. Does that come naturally to you or was that something you had to work on?

Carroll: I'm very, very shy. Just kidding. To be on stage in that respect, it is the same as playing a character. Despite not wearing anything or a skimpy outfit, it still feels like a costume. It's also done in a classy way that doesn't make you feel vulnerable. It just takes finding that something within yourself.

Andrews-Katz: What are some of the great Broadway roles you'd like to play in the future?

Carroll: I definitely would love to be in the revival of Fosse's Dancin' when it comes to Studio 54. I just love doing what I do and want to keep on doing it. Dancin' would be the finish of a dream.

Andrews-Katz: When the tour of A Chorus Line ends, what would you like to do next, given the opportunity to choose?

Carroll: I like to go back to New York City and hit the pavement. Just live the New York life. I go to the gym, and visit with my family and friends. My fiancé lives there as well, so it will be good to spend time with him.

Andrews-Katz: Are you waiting for New York to legalize Gay marriage?

Carroll: I believe in the fight for equal rights. I want the same things, not the consolation prize. We like going at our own pace, so we don't have a date for our ceremony set yet. Things are great right now, so we'll continue to fight and see.

A Chorus Line got its beginnings when Michael Bennett gathered a group of dancers together for a session to discuss what it meant to be part of a Broadway show. Without major star roles or fantastic scenery, it is the stories of these "gypsies" - their pains, heartbreaks, triumphs, and, above all, their honesty - that gives the musical its power to have not only succeeded, but to have provided more than 25 years of entertainment.

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