Taylorian Productions will be returning to the Gaiety stage this weekend after they were forced to cancel their version of ‘School of Rock’ last year. The cast of ‘A Chorus Line’ will be dancing on to the stage from August 7 to 14 after months of rehearsal including working with a director over Zoom.
Jack Divers, who plays Al, said: ‘Usually the director would come over from the UK for a weekend and do an intensive four or five days and then we’d work on it and tidy it up when they go home. Obviously, we didn’t have that facility this time, so we had to do it all over zoom with our dance captain Breeshey Crookall taking down notes on everything so she can go over it all with us again later.
It was a very disjointed feeling doing it like that because we’re usually so used to having that energy in the room, but this time we were watching the director in his living room teaching us a tap routine. So it was a very different experience but, fortunately, our director Chris Cuming has been able to get over [to the island] and we’ve had some intense weekends work.’
The choice to do the classic musical came with careful consideration, Greg actor Peter Shimmin said: ‘We chose this show very specifically, knowing you could do it with a minimal set and production elements, also because the basics of the show are mostly standing in a line to dance, you could socially distance if you needed to. A Chorus Line is a fantastic show though and everyone will know it, even if they don’t think they do. It was also a massive challenge for us dancing and singing wise, our stamina has really increased getting to do a show like this.’
Though the show is known for being choreography heavy, Jack said this version seeks to go deeper than just dancing. He said: ‘I think some people think it’s just singing and dancing but our director Chris has really honed in on the individual stories, which come from real people and are real stories of the industry. There’s some really heavy stuff in there with the issues these characters have come through which I think is very poignant at the moment as we see actors and dancers in the UK desperate to get back and perform. This musical tells the story of those people and what it means to them.’
Those relatable storylines also allowed the cast to draw from aspects of their own life, with Peter speaking about his character’s gay identity after a performance at the island’s Pride festival in June. He echoed those sentiments again, saying: ‘My character Greg talks about growing up gay and I grew up gay on the Isle of Man so there’s a similarity there for me. A lot of the gay community who get involved in theatre find that creative outlet and release, you find your tribe, so I’ve enjoyed the flamboyant sassy character that I get to play and there’s definitely elements of me in that.’
Whilst the cast and crew acknowledge the Covid situation on the island, they were keen to point out the measures that have been put in place by the Gaiety staff. Jack said: ‘The theatre has pushed forward a lot of precautions, they’re wiping down all surfaces and bars between every single performance, there’ll be handwash stations and we are actively encouraging wearing face masks. It’s not enforced so you don’t have to, but I would say to people who can wear one, please think of your fellow audience members, it’s not just about your comfortability but theirs as well.’
On why people should come and watch the show, Peter said: ‘The dance routines are really impressive, you will look at the stage and see it is visually very pleasing. Also, I think it’s really important to support local theatre, especially at the moment. We are all amateur or semi-professional performers and not everywhere in the world will have the opportunity to put on a show like this.’
Jack added: ‘Firstly, one of the things we all realised in lockdown was how often we say “oh I should’ve done that” and I don’t think we realise over here just how lucky we are with the talent we have on the island. We’ve got someone in this show who will be on the world tour of Les Mis, we’ve got people who’ve been on the West End, some who have been in films, some are professional dancers so it’s really worth seeing. We don’t do it just because we enjoy it, the end goal is to see an audience there smiling and enjoying themselves.’
Taylorian are also putting on a ‘Sunday Night at the Gaiety’ show on August 8 which will showcase some of the island’s talent performing popular songs from the musicals. The show will also include some of the cast who were meant to take part in School of Rock performing selected songs from the show.
Performances of A Chorus Line start on Saturday, August 7 and go on till Saturday, August 14. Tickets cost between £22-25 and can be purchased through the VillaGaiety box office here.