By Robert Viagas
Stars of the original production of A Chorus Line appeared alongside members of the 2018-19 international touring production at the Nov. 4 “TRU Love” benefit for Theatre Resources Unlimited (TRU) at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City.
Tony Award winner Priscilla Lopez (the original Diana Morales) was among those who paid tribute to her onetime castmate Baayork Lee (original Connie Wong). Lee, now a director, choreographer and co-founder of the National Asian Artists Project, received the TRU Spirit of Theater Award for “a lifetime of creating opportunities for Asian artists.”
Lopez recalled Lee during the original A Chorus Line rehearsals as “the brightest spirit in the room,” and after describing Lee’s little-known efforts as a surrogate parent for her own niece and nephew, saluted her for her remarkable abilities to inspire others, saying, “she’s always ready to make miracles happen.”
Accepting the award, Lee recalled how, her very first Broadway audition, at age 5, for the original cast of The King and I, she told her mother “This is where I want to be.” As an Asian-American artist who has opened to door for so many others, she said, “The door opened little bit [for me] and I stuck my foot in…. We are here to stay!”
Observing that A Chorus Line has been lauded wherever in the world it has played, Lee said, “I think we’re going to go to the moon someday, because A Chorus Line is everywhere.”
Members of the current ACLtour, choreographed by Lee, sang the show’s signature song, “What I Did for Love.”
The theme for the event was “The Power of Community,” which well suited Lee’s fellow honoree, John Chatterton, founder of the Midtown International Theatre Festival, who received the TRU Entrepreneur Award for “providing 17 years of developmental opportunities for a range of independent theater artists.”
Chatterton spoke briefly about his lifelong desire to provide opportunities for artists through the Midtown Festival, and also to provide much-needed critical attention to their work through the publication OOBR (Off-Off-Broadway Reviews).
That mission lined up well with that of the awards’ hosting organization, Theatre Resources Unlimited, which gives money to help jumpstart the careers of young producers, directors and other theatre artists. To support those activities, TRU held an auction at the event that raised more than $5000 with bids on Hamilton tickets, a Uniworld European River Cruise for two, and two pairs of Yankees Legend Suite tickets.
Directed by Jonathan Cerullo, the event also included performances by the cast of the Off-Broadway musical Sista, the song “Superior” from Thrill Me, the song “Take Me America” from the musical of the same name, and Brenda Braxton performing “Family” from Dreamgirls. As an opening number, Xander Chauncy and the young actors from A Chorus Line set the tone of the event by singing Stephen Schwartz’ “(We Can Build a) Beautiful City” from Godspell.