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What Chorus Girls Do Backstage

“According to the Chorus” put us in mind of experiences of living through the AIDS epidemic that gripped the nation in the 1980s.

This past weekend, the three of us attended a matinee performance of According to the Chorus at North Hollywood’s Road Theatre, prompted by Eric A. Gordon’s detailed and fascinating review, “According to the Chorus—A Slice of Broadway Working Life.”

In brief, the fast-paced, one-act play features a half dozen chorus girls jammed together in a basement “fast change” room to strip out of one costume and slip into a new ones so they can race back upstairs to the stage again.

Assisting them are two “dressers,” experienced Broadway hands who shoulder most of the thankless task of that costume stripping and slipping, all the while taking all manner of guff from the high-spirited hoofers.

Jacqueline Misaye, Samantha Tan and Amy Tolsky / Photo: Elizabeth Kimball

Jacqueline Misaye, Samantha Tan and Amy Tolsky / Photo: Elizabeth Kimball

Joining the dressers early on is KJ, fresh from a much more genteel, slower-paced opera changing room, who, as you might expect for a newcomer, is subject to abuse from the dancers, the dressers, the stage manager—everyone.

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Ninety minutes of rapid-fire dialogue follows as the dancers and dressers wrestle with the rigors of a show that may soon be closing, while dealing with whatever private lives they can have around their demanding careers. It’s not to be missed. You should see it.

But the play takes place in the 1980s on Broadway, an epicenter of the AIDS epidemic sweeping across then the gay community. At times, the chorus girls pause their patter to acknowledge that one male member or another of the show has sickened and died—at a time long before any kind of cure had been founded.

Our conversation includes our reflections on the play itself—how all three of us enjoyed the never-miss-a-beat interplay between the cast members—but then hones in on our memories of where we were during that horrible period, how we were touched, who we knew, and how the younger one of us came to learn about it.

According to the Chorus runs through December 11 with performances Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 2 p.m. The Road Theatre is located in The NoHo Senior Arts Colony at 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood 91601. Sunday performances are Pay-What-You-Can. For tickets visit www.roadtheatre.org or call (818) 761-8838.

We hope you’ll enjoy our discussion and take time to add your thoughts in the comment section below.