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A Roar of Approval for the Final Performance of ‘A Chorus Line’

April 29, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ ″No show runs forever,″ says one of the dancers in ″A Chorus Line.″ After 15 years and 6,137 performances, that finally came true for the longest running show in Broadway history.

The show about dancers auditioning for a big Broadway musical closed Saturday night with a tearful and highly charged performance that had theatergoers cheering even before the evening started.

When people entered the Shubert Theater they were greeted by a neon sign showing the number of performances. They yelled when the house lights went down, and every musical number was greeted by prolonged applause.

There were bravos for Laurie Gamache, who plays Cassie, when she finished her solo dance number ″The Music and the Mirror.″ And the audience roared its approval during the entire finale when all the dancers, dressed in gold costumes, high kicked their way through ″One.″

When the applause finally stopped, producer Joseph Papp appeared for a roll call of the dancers in the current production and most of original 1975 cast, who also were brought on stage.

″This show is dedicated to anyone who has ever danced in a chorus or marched in step anywhere,″ Papp said. ″Take a final bow ’Chorus Line.‴

He also lauded the musical’s creative team, Nicholas Dante and James Kirkwood, who wrote the book; Marvin Hamlisch, who composed the music, and Ed Kleban, who did the lyrics.

Most touching were the tears and applause for Michael Bennett, the show’s director and choreographer, who died of AIDS in 1987 at the age of 44. When a huge black and white photo of Bennett appeared as a backdrop, the audience and cast members clapped wildly.

The final performance started nearly a half-hour late as people surged in front of the theater in the heart of the Broadway theater district. Police closed off part of 44th Street to accommodate the crowds.

The sold-out evening benefited the New York Shakespeare Festival, which produced the musical. Tickets were priced from $80 to $500, and many were bought by people who had seen the musical over and over again.

Perhaps the record holders were Stephen and Betty Cockayne of Nottingham, England, who caught both the Saturday matinee and evening performances. Cockayne has now seen the musical 338 times, mostly during the show’s London run.

Fans gathered around the stage door to applaud cast members as they left after the performance for a party at Mama Leone’s. Some 800 guests were invited to the celebration, which took over three floors at the theater district restaurant.

″A Chorus Line″ originally was set to close at the end of March, but Papp pushed the final performance back four weeks because of a surge in ticket sales.

The show, based on some 40 hours of taped conversations by dancers, started performances in April 1975 at the Shakespeare Festival’s Newman Theater off- Broadway. It moved to Broadway on July 25, 1975, and has been at the Shubert Theater ever since.

‴A Chorus Line’ truly is an amazing show,″ says Tom Porter, its veteran production stage manager, who supervised the musical one last time Saturday night. ″Think how many other shows have opened and closed during its 15-year run. I think that’s why it was very hard to realize that it was closing. After a while, you thought it will be here forever.″

For the dancers, the end came gradually over the last week. Most already had cleaned out their dressing rooms before the final curtain.

And the Shubert already has a new tenant. The theater will undergo extensive renovation and reopen in October with ″Buddy,″ the hit London musical about the legendary American rock ‘n’ roll singer Buddy Holly.

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