The performing arts field is more like a mine field these days.
Nearly anyone who acts, sings, dances, composes, runs the lights - you name it - knows of someone who has tested HIV positive or who has succumbed to the AIDS virus. Every week in Variety, the entertainment trade magazine, the obituary pages list a few more who have died.Not all of them are famous like Rock Hudson and Liberace. Some earn just two or three terse lines, and that's it.
The performers in the current national touring company of "A Chorus Line" are doing their part to help raise funds and public awareness about AIDS.
For nearly two hours Wednesday night (and lapping into early Thursday morning), the cast moved from the Capitol Theatre, where "A Chorus Line" is playing to sell-out audiences through Sunday, and brought their "Show After the Show" AIDS benefit to the intimate Broadway Stage, 272 S. Main.
It was like a late-night jam session in a small off-Broadway house (which the Broadway Stage is, technically, since it's located about two doors north of Salt Lake City's Broadway).
As you'd expect, there was a lot of music from several great Broadway shows, along with humor (some hilarious, some dark), terrific dancing, and some somber moments when there were monologues excerpted from Bill Russell's "Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens."
And there were frequent references to the "Names" quilt, large sections of which were displayed a couple of years ago in the Salt Palace Assembly Hall.
That quilt has grown to nearly seven acres in size, according to Joel Vig, wardrobe production manager for the "A Chorus Line: The Broadway Tour" company. But, as he told the crowd Wednesday, "I feel no comfort in that comforter. What I'd prefer seeing is a Living Quilt, one with panels sewn by people who had licked AIDS."
"The Show After the Show" was a joint benefit, with proceeds from ticket sales (tallied at $740) going directly to the Utah AIDS Foundation's new "Help at Home" program, which will provide hot meals for AIDS victims who are both chronically or temporarily unable to prepare their own meals. This program is being coordinated with the Salvation Army and Holy Cross Hospital.
Midway through the benefit performance, emcee Randy Clements (who plays Zach in "A Chorus Line") auctioned off several items from the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning show, including a poster autographed by the entire cast; a book, "On the Line," a compilation of stories from many of the original cast members, gathered by Baayork Lee, who directed the show now being presented at the Capitol Theatre; and a copy of the original script for the first workshop version of "A Chorus Line."
Clements, who had entertained the audience earlier with a not-quite-serious rendition of "Too Many Tomorrows" from "Sweet Charity," could always find employment at the Ogden Stock Yards if he ever quits show business. He was a terrific auctioneer, wheedling higher and higher bids from the crowd with his rapid-fire spiel.
The folks in Fresno, Calif., the first place the touring company had conducted a similar benefit, paid $250 for the autographed poster. The most Clements could entice from the bidders in Salt Lake City was a paltry $130.
To date, Clements noted later in the show, the total proceeds from other "A Chorus Line" benefits have raised nearly $63,000. The shows have been a big draw in New York City, where the late-night, cabaret style fund-raisers began.
The songs and dances were just part of the show at the Broadway Stage. There were many poignant and moving moments when cast members read excerpts from Bill Russell's "Elegies."
Michael Gorman read a section about Dwight, the "tainted son" who fled his family's fundamentalist home for the bright lights of Broadway, then, stricken with AIDS, is forced to return home to die. We aren't sure which hurts more - suffering the diatribes of pulpit-pounding hypocrites or the physical pain that finally kills him.
Phillip Michael Baskerville contributed a darkly humorous piece about a deceased AIDS victim commenting on his section of the Names Quilt.
"I had requested something FABULOUS!" he exclaims, "but all I have is a beach towel . . . with hand-drawn lettering . . . and a teddy bear!
"I'm not bitter, but it is not fair for me to die and then continue suffering from PANEL ENVY."