Dancers sway, a director gives instructions, the music director gives careful notes. It is a typical day of rehearsals for Wildwood Summer Theatre, but there is something special about this troupe of performers. Wildwood Summer Theater is the D.C. area’s only fully youth-run theatre company. Everyone involved, from actors, to staff, to orchestra, to the board of directors, are between the ages of 14 and 25.
This year, the company celebrates its 49th year with the classic Broadway musical A Chorus Line. This long-running Broadway centers around a group of dancers auditioning to be in a Broadway chorus line and expecting a typical audition, but the director’s desire to learn more about them turn the audition into anything but ordinary. Their audition turns into a personal, hilarious, and heartbreaking examination of who they are and why they love to do what they do – dance.
“I think A Chorus Line is an exceptional show and has the right amount of comedy and drama,” says Producer Mattia D’Affuso. “In addition, Marvin Hamlisch’s music is just outstanding with such delightful melodies and harmonies and memorable tunes.” D’Affuso also thinks that audiences will really be impressed by top notch dancing numbers. “We have not done a ‘dance show’ in a while,” D’Affuso explains. “The Board of Directors of this company tries to choose from a variety of shows over the years and we felt like it was time to bring a classic work that involves dancing.”
Director Devin Goodman feels that this show would also be an opportunity to produce interesting work and a challenge. “I was initially drawn to A Chorus Line in the hopes of playing with the expectations of our audience; who will come to the show imagining that a very specific set of traditions will be followed. They may be surprised, however, to discover these traditions gleefully flaunted, altered on a fundamental level.” While this is his first time directing for the company, Mr. Goodman is no stranger for the directing chair. “For me – a man accustomed to five-man black-box plays – A Chorus Line is a far more massive undertaking than anything I’ve dealt with before.” However, he feels that his smaller scale work has actually worked to his advantage in this undertaking. “We’re attempting to bring the personal touch of smaller pieces of theatre to the grandeur of A Chorus Line.”
Helping bring the show to life is a young and excited cast. “This is my first year with the company. I’ve never even been on the east coast before!” is the word from Alexa Soriano, who will be playing the role of Diana Morales. “Diana and I are fighters, women who know what they want and how to get it. We plan out how we should proceed, evaluate the situation and run at it like we are on fire.”
While Soriano has certainly enjoyed her first experience with Wildwood, there are plenty who keep coming back for more. “This is my fifth production with Wildwood,” says cast member Mason Catharini, playing the role of Mark. Catharini joined Wildwood back in 2010 for their Ruby Griffith Award-winning production of The Pajama Game, and has “contributed to every production since.” Catharini is also astounded by Wildwood’s long history. “It started in 1965 with a group of kids who got together because they loved theatre and wanted to make it themselves. Remarkably, that philosophy is what still keeps this company going.” Catharini feels that he is as close as can be with his fellow twenty-three cast members. “It really feels as though we are operating as a unit.”
Other cast members include two-time Cappie Award nominee Jonathan Helwig, portraying Al Deluca. Helwig currently attends the University of Maryland, graduated from Wootton High School in 2010 and has worked in productions at Wootton, UMD, Theater Lab, and Musical Theatre Center. Tiziano D’Affuso, playing Paul, was recently seen in Young Artists of America’s production of The Phantom of The Opera as Firmin. Jeramiah Miller, playing Richie, studies Theatre and Dance at Frostburg State University and has worked for Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, and Jazzlan Dance Theatre. The role of Cassie Ferguson, made famous by Donna McKechnie and Charlotte D’Amboise on Broadway, will be played by JMU student and Churchill graduate Alex Levenson. Her previous performances include roles in Our Countries Garden, Sweeney Todd, A Servant of Two Masters, and Spring Awakening.
D’Affuso says, “Not only this is a brilliant show but it is put together by a hard working group of talented young women and men. Their dedication and love for the arts is what brought them to WST. Every single company member is volunteering countless hours of their time to work together and to put on this show.” Why should people come and see this show? “Show business is still one of the hardest businesses to be part of out there, even today.” D’Affuso admits. “The show gives the audience a struggling artist’s perspective of life and their career.”
A Chorus Line opens on July 19th and plays through July 27th at Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School – 4301 East-West Highway, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, purchase them online, by phone (240) 583-0978, by mail, or at the door.
A Chorus Line has music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. The cast features Alex Palmer, Avery Mulligan, Corey Levine, Gavin Kramar, Chris Naughton, Shabnam Salek, Michelle Huey, Meryl Crock, Katherine Worley, Rebecca Adelson, Gabriela Schulman, Emma Moore, Queen Griffin, Anne-Marie Lloyd, Maria Martin, Veronica Merrill, and Shanta Parasuraman.