"One" More Time: 50 Chorus Line Members, Including Kelly Bishop, Priscilla Lopez, Tribute Marvin Hamlisch at Paper Mill
By Michael Gioia
"One thrilling combination" was revived Oct. 7 at Paper Mill Playhouse, where over 50 cast members from various productions of the iconic Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Chorus Line took to the New Jersey stage and paid tribute to the late, Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch.
"It was overwhelming, electrifying and emotional," said a teary-eyed Terre Blair Hamlisch, the wife of the late songwriting legend, who attended the opening-night performance in Millburn, NJ. "There is no doubt in my mind that today [Marvin] would be smiling from ear to ear and extraordinarily proud of this cast and what they did with this piece."
Hamlisch's widow was likely referring to the electrifying, emotional and overwhelming finale that featured a slew of former and current Chorus Line members reprising the musical's finale, "One." This portion of the evening was introduced by Tony Award winner Kelly Bishop and director-choreographer Mitzi Hamilton — a dancer in Michael Bennett's original taped workshop who inspired the character of Val.
"Good evening," Bishop began. "In August, we lost our friend, our teacher, our mentor. Marvin Hamlisch was born in New York City, June 2, 1944. A graduate of Juilliard School of Music, he composed more than 40 motion picture scores throughout his musical career, including 1973's 'The Way We Were,' which he co-wrote with Marilyn and Alan Bergman. Marvin received an Academy Award for that score, and two years later, won the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for co-writing A Chorus Line. In a career that spanned film, television, theatre and recorded music, Marvin won seemingly every award available in each medium.
"But what I remember most about Marvin is an exuberant enthusiasm and a generosity of spirit and deed. This was a man who was so in the present — so engaged — that it didn't matter what he was doing, whether he was working on a project, or working with an actor or a singer, or just having a conversation with you, this man was there. He was there for you. He was listening. He was wonderful. Clever. Amusing. And, just delightful. I'm very, very lucky to have known him."
"Marvin always believed in the power of music to bring people together," added Hamilton. "He insisted that music can make a difference. He said, 'There is a global nature to music, which has the potential to bring all people together. Music is truly an international language, and I hope to contribute to writing communication as much as I can.' I believe he did just that. Now we would like to welcome company cast members…"
With those words, Chorus Line alumni, including members from the 1975 production, the 2006 Broadway revival and various touring productions, rose from their orchestra seats and made their way to the stage.
"We would like to pay tribute to our dear friend Marvin the best way we know how," said Hamilton as she walked up to the pit to address music director John O'Neill. "John, are you with us? Hit it, John!"
Joining Bishop, Hamilton and the Paper Mill Chorus Line company for "One" were Richie Abanes, Nick Adams, Scott Allen, Denice Pence-Boockvor, Steve Boockvor, Kerry Casserly, Mary Lou Crivello-Cipolla, Karen Curlee, Susan Danielle, Dena DiGiancinto, Kurt Domoney, Donna Drake, Dennis Edenfield, Lois Englund, Doug Friedman, Angelique Ilo, Anthony Inneo, Bradley Jones, Bryan Knowlton, Joe Langworth, Terry Lucibello Lombardozzi, Priscilla Lopez, Robin Lyon, Christine Maglione-Beniers, Alison Gertner Mann, J. Elaine Marcos, Flynn McMichaels, Wayne Meledandri, Dana Moore, Suzen Murakoshi, Jack Noseworthy, Evan Pappas, Heather Parcells, Adam Perry, Donna Pompei, Melissa Randel, Steve Riley, Jeff Schecter, Dorothy Tancredi Dybisz, David Thome, Inga Frederic-Thrasher, Glenn Turner, Michael Weir, Richard Winkler, Scott Wise and Tony Yazbeck.
"It was the rehearsal [that] was a little bit more special," Heather Parcells, who originated the role of Judy in the 2006 Broadway revival, told Playbill.com following the performance. "Every single one of us, when it went into the music, knew exactly what to do… We knew what to do!"
"Tonight was fantabulous!" added Priscilla Lopez, who originated the role of Diana and was nominated for a 1976 Tony Award for her performance. "I was so happy to see the show and to see the show done so beautifully. All the elements were there. It was really moving. It gave me a good opportunity to reflect and really look at something that I was part of and will continue to be part of — something that was such a landmark event in theatre."
At the opening night after party, Ms. Hamlisch, Parcells, Lopez and various Chorus Line veterans shared their favorite memories of the late songwriter and what, exactly, he "Did For Love."
"When we were in previews downtown, a few of us got very, very sick with a cold," explained Kelly Bishop. "Marvin arranged doctor appointments with the best ENT in New York. He knocked on my apartment door at 11 o'clock at night and brought me a humidifier and Vicks VapoRub and had done the same with the other four or five people who were equally as ill. I remember Marvin Hamlisch coming to my roach-infested apartment on the Upper West Side… There it was. That's the kind of thing he would do."
After congratulating the Chorus Line cast, an overwhelmed and overjoyed Terre Blair Hamlisch soaked in the after party with a few of her and her late husband's friends. "Do you know that Marvin is having his portrait painted by a royal portrait painter in London?" she shared. "It's going to hang at the National Portrait Gallery [in Washington, DC]. Nobody knows this… They asked him which piece of music he wanted to [be pictured holding] in his hand for the painting, and he chose 'What I Did For Love.' He said, 'People would be surprised, Terri. I chose 'What I Did For Love.'"
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work frequently appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)
Remembering the stage work of Marvin Hamlisch:
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