'A Chorus Line' of SU alums

Three Syracuse University alumni perform in the national tour of "A Chorus Line," coming to the Crouse Hinds Theater.

Syracuse alumnus Nick Nerio got a special Christmas present when he was 10 years old: the original Broadway cast recording of A Chorus Line.

“I wore out the CD listening to it,” Nerio said. “I just love the opening number as the director calling out, ‘step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch’ and you can hear the dancers doing the steps. I just fell in love with it.”

Nerio, who graduated from Syracuse in 2005 with bachelor's degree in musical theater, is part of the national tour of A Chorus Line, which will play at the Civic Center's Crouse Hinds Theater from Oct. 12 to Oct. 14.

A Chorus Line, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, first played on Broadway in 1975. The ensemble show focuses on 17 dancers who audition for a Broadway show's chorus line, and their backstory. The musical won nine Tony Awards and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

The original director and choreographer, Buffalo native Michael Bennett, once wrote, “The show is dedicated to anyone who has ever danced in a chorus or marched in step . . . anywhere, anytime.”

Performing with Nerio in the touring production are two other SU alumni, Seth Danner and Rylyn Juliano. Danner graduated in 2010 and Rylyn, who could not be reached for an interview, graduated in 2009. Both hold degrees in musical theater.

Though A Chorus Line, per its name, is a dance-heavy show, neither Nerio nor Danner had a dance background before SU.

“I’d never taken a lot of dance. I could naturally just move well and I was naturally flexible,” Danner said. “Then I got to Syracuse and started taking ballet. And it just started to make sense. In my mind and in my body, I understood it and it felt good.”

Nerio and Danner both play dancers who are ultimately cut from the show. But they are also understudies for the other cast members: Nerio is covering four, Danner is covering five. It is a new experience for both.

“It’s really made my mind work in a different way because rather than learning about it on stage, I have to sit in the audience and watch each of my five characters and their path through the stage,” Danner said.

The rehearsal days are strenuous, spanning from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a new city every couple of days. Yet for the actors, the process has been rewarding. One of the original cast members, Baayork Lee, who helped developed the original choreography, is directing and choreographing the touring production.

“It sounds cliché, but it really is a dream come true,” Nerio said.

“I would just sit there in rehearsals and then step outside of myself and say, ‘God, I’m learning these steps from Baayork, who developed it with Michael Bennett.’ It doesn’t get any better than that.”

A quick Q&A with Danner and Nerio:

What is it about A Chorus Line that has allowed it to age so well?

Danner: Everybody knows what it’s like to petition for a job and everyone feels the desperation of, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pay the bills this month. And so when they see that on stage, ‘God I hope I get it,’ everyone kind of understands.

Nerio: I think today, especially today, people can relate to being on the line. Putting themselves out there and needing a job so badly that you’re willing to lose everything you have to get that job. And in the end, some people get it and some people don’t. And it’s heartbreaking, and it’s a part of life. And I think that’s what still speaks to people.

Having gone through auditions in the real world, what advice would you give to students who are graduating and starting their career in musical theater?

Danner: Go out and have fun. That’s the most important thing to do. You go into the audition room and if they say, ‘Thank you very much, but no thank you,’ it’s just another audition. The biggest thing, the most important thing, to do once you get into the city is get yourself seen as much as you can. And treat it like a performance. Go into a room and sing a song you love to sing. Act it like you love to act it. And in return, most of the time the people behind the table will love it too.

Nerio: I think that for performers today, the most important thing is to just keep a positive attitude because so much of the theater industry is about being rejected, and you can get down on yourself, and that’s just never a good thing. I’ve seen friends, classmates who have left the business because it got to be too much. And I understand, it’s not for everybody. But as long as you’re able to stay positive and just keep with it, keep at it, keep going to audition, keep going to dance classes. As long as you stay busy, you’ll do alright and something will come along. You’ll get something inevitably, as long as you work hard and stay positive.

Come see the show

What: A Chorus Line, part of the Famous Artist Broadway series

Where: Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater at the Civic Center

800 S. State St., Syracuse, NY 13201


When: Oct. 12-14, 7:30 p.m.

How much: $32-$66. Half-priced student rush tickets are available at the box office one hour prior to each performance. Bring student ID and cash.

And here's a little preview from the movie version (don't worry, there's no spoilers).

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