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Broadway’s ‘A Chorus Line’ Notches Performance Number 5,000

August 10, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ ″A Chorus Line″ highkicked its way past performance number 5,000, and the final curtain appears nowhere in sight for the longest running show in Broadway history.

The musical reached the milestone Saturday night but delayed celebrating until tonight’s performance when 19 actors who appeared in stock or amateur productions of the show will take part in the finale along with members of the current New York cast.

The performance will be dedicated to Michael Bennett, the hit’s director and choreographer. Bennett, who died July 2 of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, came up with the idea for the musical about a group of dancers auditioning for a Broadway show.

The newcomers were chosen from some 725 entries by Joseph Papp, head of the New York Shakespeare Festival, which produced the show. Names of the 19 winners - one for each role - were selected by Papp from 19 different hats, each bearing the name of a character in the musical. The names of the entrants had been submitted by theater groups from across the country.

Randy Donaldson of Cincinnati was 8 years old when ″A Chorus Line″ opened on Broadway in 1975. He did the musical last summer, playing Richie in a production at the University of Mississippi.

″The show is almost like a performers’ Christmas,″ he says. ″Every time we go to an audition, it’s like Christmas Eve. We’re waiting to see if we are going to get the part. And if we do, it’s like Christmas Day. ‘Chorus Line’ reminds me of that.″

Dave Kappas, a 15-year veteran of small theater productions in the South and Midwest, played the pivotal role of Zach, the director, in a production at the Upstairs Dinner Theater in Omaha, Neb.

He says he saw the bus and truck production half a dozen times as it toured the country.

″I don’t see it as a show about dancers. I see it as a show about humanity that is expressed through dancers,″ says Kappas, who also is the artistic director of the Blue Moon Dinner Theater in Birmingham, Ala. ″I think that’s why it has played so long and has such universal appeal.″

That appeal has translated into box office success. The gross for the Broadway company alone reached more than $119.4 million by the end of May with a profit of some $17.4 million. Major touring companies have added another $13 million in profits.

Some 16.7 million people have seen the show at the Shubert Theater in New York where it opened on July 25, 1975, after a two-month run at a small theater in the New York Shakespeare Festival complex in the East Village.

Buoyed by the best summer theater season in years, the show has been grossing between $200,000 and $250,000 a week for the past several months, according to Variety, the show business trade paper.

The musical became Broadway’s longest running show on Sept. 29, 1983, with its 3,388th performance.

For Melody Truitt, who played Cassie in a production earlier this year at the Spokane Civic Theater in Spokane, Wash., the show was the first time she had appeared in local theater.

″I gave up being a dancer to follow my heart and the show brought back a lot of memories,″ she says.

Toby Abraham-Rhine of Los Angeles, who played Maggie in a production at Santa Monica City College, said watching the show made her realize that she, too, could be on stage.

″I thought, ’I could do that,‴ she says. ″To an actor, this show is you. When we sang, ‘What I Did for Love,’ our cast would be in tears. It’s been our life too.″

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