‘A Chorus Line’ allows local actress to revive her role as Sheila
Nothing compares to the feeling when an actor can really get into a role, especially one she or he has played before.
That’s what Park City resident Cate Conroy says about her role as Sheila Bryant in the Egyptian Theatre’s upcoming run of "A Chorus Line" that will open on Friday, July 4.
In the setting of the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, with lyrics by Marvin Hamlish and lyrics by Edward Kleban, Bryant is one of 18 dancers and actors who are auditioning for a role in a big, Broadway production.
She is an aging, street-smart, catty dancer who had an unhappy childhood.
"Sheila, like me, is very strong-willed, very stubborn and kind of aggressive," Conroy told The Park Record. "There are many links of characteristics to me, but I would hope I’m not as rough around the edges as she is."
This is the second time Conroy has engulfed herself in Bryant’s sass. The first time was when she was in college.
"She’s also one of those characters who says what she thinks and that’s something that I don’t think we do in life," Conroy said. "We all put on our filters and don’t say things because we want to be polite."
That’s one of the most enjoyable parts of the role.
"It’s fun to be her because she gets to say what everybody else is thinking," Conroy said. "It’s also fun because you can get away with a lot by playing a character like that. If I’m cast twice in the same role, there must be some of Sheila in me."
Still, through the cattiness, Conroy manages to find Bryant’s humanity through her song, "At the Ballet."
"The whole connection to the ballet is definitely Sheila’s tender side," the actress said. "Even though not everyone in the audience will relate to her feeling about the ballet, I think they can connect with her on a level where one thing, when life gets awful and inescapable, gives us joy and brings us happiness. Sheila talks about how terrible her family life was, but was also able to escape and be happy if she was doing ballet or watching a performance."
When "A Chorus Line" had its world-premiere on Broadway in 1975, actress Kelly Bishop played Sheila and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical and a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical .
Her performance is one of Conroy’s favorites.
"I have seen Kelly and she was brilliant," Conroy said. "The first time I played the role, the Internet didn’t exist, so going back and watching her then was not possible. I’ve now been able to watch and see what she brought to the character and that has been fun."
In the performance, Bryant’s best friend is an actor and dancer named Bobby Mills, who will be played by Brian Nelson.
Conroy and Nelson hit it off the first day of rehearsal.
"Obviously standing together in the line, you’re limited to two people you can play off — the person to your left and the one on your right," Conroy said. "It’s fun to get to play off of him, because Bobby is every bit as catty as Sheila. They feed off of each other and have no mercy and cut everybody down. That’s fun, because there is a lot of humor between them."
In 1976, "A Chorus Line" was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Conroy said the production is an "actor’s dream."
"This is one of those shows where you watch it and you find you want to play all the characters," she said. "It’s a rich story and has some great characters."
Amber Hansen is directing the Egyptian’s production and Conroy enjoys working with her.
"She does not get in the way with anybody’s view of their characters, unless there is a sense that they are lost and not sure where to take them," Conroy said. "She’s very good at letting us create these characters. She’s not a dictator."
Another aspect Conroy likes is Hansen’s vision to keep the musical exciting.
"Visually, this show is pretty much done the same every time it’s done," Conroy said. "It’s an audition and the actors are on a bare stage. There are no props.
"Amber is bent on keeping it traditional and make the stories of these characters come through, because that’s where the heart of the show is," she said.
Conroy, a four-year Park City resident, said she received an audition notice in January.
"I hadn’t done a show since before my son was born, so it was kind of nerve wracking to go out for an audition in more than four years, but it’s a fun show and one that I know really well. So that helped take some of the tension off," she said. "I went into the audition specifically with Sheila in mind, knowing that age-wise she was the best fit for me. I knew if I was going to get into the [Egyptian’s] show, Sheila would be my best shot."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will open "A Chorus Line," on Friday, July 4, at 8 p.m. The musical will run every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 27. Evening curtain for Thursday through Saturday is 8 p.m. Sunday curtain is 6 p.m. Thursday tickets range from $35 to $60 and tickets for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays range from $39 to $70. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
“Park City Follies” ticket sales will help buy a new expansion to the Egyptian Theatre that will house YouTheatre and serve as a black box.