Staples Players strives to offer audiences Broadway-quality productions.
To do that, director David Roth gives his actors Broadway-quality experiences.
Two years ago, before “Curtains,” Tony Award-winner Rupert Holmes told the cast how he wrote the play.
Last year, for “Into the Woods,” Tony winner Joanna Gleason described her role in that Stephen Sondheim show.
Last week — with rehearsals for “A Chorus Line” kicking into high gear — Roth welcomed Baayork Lee to the stage.
Talk about one singular sensation!
Lee first danced professionally at age 5, in Yul Brynner’s “The King and I.” She gained fame in “Flower Drum Song,” “Golden Boy” and “Promises, Promises.”
But “A Chorus Line” was — and still is — her true love. She was assistant choreographer to Michael Bennett; he based the character of Connie Wong on her, after she participated in the development workshops.
Lee danced in the original Broadway company — where she met Bradley Jones, the 1975 Staples grad who co-choreographs Players’ current spectacular production. She also toured with it, in Europe and South America.
In the high school auditorium last week, she sat with the cast and crew to talk about the show that remains so dear to her heart.
“I care deeply about passing along the ‘Chorus Line’ tradition, with integrity, passion and care,” she told 100 or so high school students
“You are a very special group. This show changed the face of theater. Now you too will be able to pass on Michael Bennett’s legacy, to a new generation that watches you perform.”
Lee told the teenagers about the New York of the 1970s — the cradle from which “Chorus Line” grew. She described the 2 taping sessions Bennett held, gathering tales of 52 prospective dancers.
She talked about disco dancing every night, then coming back with new steps to incorporate into the show.
It took a lot of hard work — but “A Chorus Line” made history.
If your browser does not link directly to the YouTube video below, click here.)
Before dancing with the cast on stage — and giving them Broadway-and-Bennett-style critiques — Lee told the enthralled teenagers:
“When you’re a pioneer, you don’t know you’re blazing a trail. At the time, we did not realize the difference we made in theater.
“Appreciate everything you do,” Lee concluded. “Appreciate the moment you are in. You never know when it will end.”
For Staples Players, the moment begins March 15. It ends March 23.
But thanks to people like Baayork Lee and Bradley Jones, they’ll carry “A Chorus Line” with them the rest of their lives.
Their audiences will, too.
(“A Chorus Line” shows are Friday and Saturday, March 15, 16, 22 and 23, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m., and Thursday, March 21 at 7 p.m. Click here for tickets and more information.)
A friend of mine was recently considering towns in Fairfield County and, as I tried in as objective a manner as possible to point out the differences between Westport and nearby towns, one of the things I noted was the incredible quality of the Staples Players program. This story is just one more example of how fortunate Westport kids are to have a program such as this.
Thanks Dan, for posting about our incredible afternoon with Baayork. Just for the record, I cannot claim to be an original company member of ACL. I went into the show 5 year after it opened on Broadway, and stayed for 8 years. I consider myself a “worker bee” who helped in some small way to maintain the show’s then legendary run. I met Baayork in 1990 when I auditioned for her for the Visa Broadway tour. She was an energetic director who infused our company with passion and grit. That is what she does best! I cannot stop thinking about The Staples Company, and how they too have been changed by Baayork’s visit last week. They had an experience they will have for the rest of their lives! So did I, and I am so grateful to Baayork Lee for her generosity of time and spirit!