It was an Indian chief and he'd say, 'Maggie do you want to dance?' And I'd say, 'Daddy, I would love to.'"" /> Stepping in 'Line' : Denver News, Business, Homes, Jobs, Cars, & Information
Rocky Mountain News


Stepping in 'Line'

Dancing in Denver shows since age 8, Mara Davi lands Broadway role

Published October 9, 2006 at midnight

For three decades, little girls have stood in front of their mirrors, ballet slippers on their feet, and instead of dreaming of The Nutcracker (although they do that, too), they sing, "It was an Indian chief and he'd say, 'Maggie do you want to dance?' And I'd say, 'Daddy, I would love to.'"

Mara Davi knew the words growing up in Parker and Highlands Ranch and going to ballet class. She learned the choreography to A Chorus Line from Alann Worley at Academy of Theatre Art in Denver.

"I was actually thinking the other day, 'Wow, she taught me the exact same choreography I'm doing on the stage tonight,' " Davi says.

That stage is Broadway's Schoenfeld Theatre, where Davi, now 22, plays Maggie in the first revival of A Chorus Line. It's her Broadway debut and an enormous break in a fairly charmed career that began with performances at Country Dinner Playhouse. Earlier this month, Davi had just finished a Saturday matinee when she called Rocky Mountain News.

She's been dancing, she says, since she was 3 years old.

By 8, she was begging her mother to let her do shows, beginning with a Christmas pageant at Faith Baptist Church in Parker. Soon she was performing at Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton in shows including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Music Man and taking classes from Worley and Paul Dwyer, now artistic director at Country Dinner.

"They taught me about performing," she says. "Even more than technique, they taught me about the heart of it and the energy and excitement."

With Worley, Davi studied dance, and from Dwyer, she learned acting.

"As a child actor, he taught me everything that I needed to know," she says.

She ended up performing onstage with him at Country Dinner in the 1990s in Bye, Bye Birdie and The Sound of Music, in which she played Luisa, and Maria was played by Rachel deBenedet, now a Broadway performer herself, performing in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

"When we were doing Spider's Web, she heard me singing and said, 'Someday, you need to play Maggie in A Chorus Line,' and I didn't know who Maggie was yet," Davi remembers. "She was actually the one who put the idea in my head. It really made me want this role. The night that I found out that I got the show, I walked to her stage door and I told her, and she was so happy she started to cry. She had been my role model when I was growing up."

As a teenager, Davi and her family moved to Northern California, but her studies with Worley paid off when she was a student at California State University at Fullerton and the national tour of 42nd Street held auditions. "I learned all the 42nd Street choreography from her, and that choreography got me through my audition."

Just 20 years old, she was in New York rehearsing by day and taking her finals at night. "I just remember learning so much, just being immersed in the business environment and being immersed in New York," she says. "(I thought,) 'Wow, I'm here. I'm rehearsing for a show in New York. I'm actually doing what I've wanted to do my whole life.' "

A Chorus Line is legendary for both Michael Bennett's achievement and the life stories of the dancers, many of whom played themselves, that make up the text. Those dancers came from an age when dancers were expected only to dance - now everyone must sing and act as well. Bennett's co-choreographer, Bob Avian, is directing the show; Baayork Lee, the original Connie, is restaging the choreography; and Coloradan Michael Gorman, a veteran of the show, is her assistant choreographer.

(That familiarity may not have added up to enough freshness. "What remains is a good reproduction of a great original," wrote Clive Barnes in the New York Post last week. "But if you've seen it before, you needn't run to see it again."

Davi got a good notice: "Mara Davi, with her sweet, sure voice and unguarded stage persona, does a gorgeous job on At the Ballet," wrote David Rooney in Variety.)

In addition, the new cast has met several of the originals.

"The fact that they knew Michael Bennett personally has been helpful, because they can really pass on his work so specifically. They have such a passion for his work and they are making sure that we are doing the show just how Michael would have wanted it done."

Where are they now?

When A Chorus Line opened in 1975, its dancers were mainly Broadway veterans, unknown workhorses who, with the success of the show, were led to believe they'd become stars. None of them did. Here are a few of their stories:

Kelly Bishop: Sheila in the original cast; Emily Gilmore on The Gilmore Girls.

Sammy Williams: Won a Tony as Paul in the original cast; worked as a florist before recently returning to acting in West Coast theaters.

Thommie Walsh: Bobby in the original; went on to choreograph The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Nine, among others, on Broadway

Priscilla Lopez: Diana in the original; moved into acting, most recently on Broadway in Anna in the Tropics in 2003

Donna McKechnie: Won the Tony as Cassie in the original; struggled to make it in Hollywood with mediocre success. Tours with a one-woman show; recently published Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life.

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