As a member in the international touring company of A Chorus Line (which plays Vancouver at the beginning of November), actor Joey Dudding took some time between cities to talk to us about the show, his role and even about his just released movie.
A Chorus Line is a pretty iconic show and has some lasting power. What do you attribute this longevity to?
I think its longevity is due to two things: the truthful script and the captivating score. The characters and stories in ACL are based on the real lives of dancers. Nothing is more effective or moving than a true story. Also, Marvin Hamlisch composed songs that are so memorable. It would be hard to find someone in the US (or Canada) who had never heard “What I Did for Love” or “One”.
What makes A Chorus Line still relevant today?
Because like the characters in the show, we all have to take risks. Whether we are fighting for a job or a relationship, we are putting ourselves on the line.
Tell us about your own audition process for the A Chorus Line. How close to reality is A Chorus Line for an actor/dancer/singer?
My audition process actually began in summer 2005 when I went to a dance audition for the Broadway revival. Unlike the show where the dancers audition on stage, we were in a studio. After learning the jazz combination, a cut was made and thankfully I was asked to stay to dance the ballet combination. A few months later I was called back in to dance, sing and read for various roles. After a third callback, I was cast as the swing, understudying Paul, Mark and Bobby. I was with the Broadway company until it closed in August 2008, then I got a call from my agents this past spring asking if I wanted to join the tour.
The audition portrayed in ACL is very unique. It’s common to learn several dance combinations, but we’re not normally asked to expose our life stories and secrets in front of everyone.
Tell us about your tour so far, where have you been? Any highlights? Lowlights?
I joined the tour this past July and I love it! The highlight of the tour so far would definitely be the month we spent in Japan. We played Tokyo for three weeks and then Hyogo for one week. Getting to be immersed in such a different culture for such a long time was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I saw so many beautiful temples, ate the most delicious and bizarre foods, I even spotted a geisha in Kyoto! As a company, we really made the most of the experience. However, doing the show and running all over Japan did get a bit exhausting.
Being on the road must be pretty taxing. What’s your secret for looking after yourself as you travel on tour?
The most challenging part of touring for me is not wearing myself out exploring each new city. Also, I’m someone who considers nightlife a part of sightseeing. I definitely hit the sake too hard a few times in Japan if you know what I mean. We visited Memphis last week, and I spent several nights on Beale Street after the show listening to music and eating ribs. Luckily, I get to sleep late which I think is the key to staying healthy on tour! I probably should say that I eat healthy and go to the gym, but that would be a lie.
You play Paul in A Chorus Line who has a pretty heavy monologue. How do you prepare yourself for that monologue and keep it fresh every night?
Yes, it is a very heavy monologue. I’ve definitely struggled keeping it fresh and staying connected to the material. When I first approached the role, the emotion was very raw and easy to tap into. After performing it for a while, I had to go back and refresh certain images I was using or find different phrasing to get myself out of a habits that would make the speech become stale for me. Also, there’s a lot of pressure put on the end of the speech where Paul breaks down. I had to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t going to feel the same way every night. I feel the speech works best when I relax and take each moment one at a time.
Does the monologue come from any personal space for you?
There is a lot in the monologue that I can personally relate to. Growing up gay in the “Bible Belt” of Virginia was not an easy thing. Riding the bus in middle school was a nightmare and I was ridiculed and harassed constantly. However, unlike Paul I have been out to my parents for a long time. I’m very fortunate that I can completely be myself around my parents. They are amazing.
There continues a debate about straight actors playing gay characters and vice versa. Who has it easier – a gay man playing a gay character or a straight man playing a gay character?
I don’t think it matters whether the actor who plays a gay role is straight or gay. The only thing that matters is that the actor approach the character with honesty. It would probably be easier for a gay man to play a gay love scene because it would feel more natural. I think gay men just get mad when straight actors play gay roles because it’s a tease.
I know our readers will want to know – are you attached?
Let me put it this way: if this were Facebook, I’d say “it’s complicated”.
The film The Big Gay Musical was just released in August where you play Eddie, which also uses a musical as a backdrop. Can you tell us about the movie?
The movie is about two friends opening an Off-Broadway musical called “Adam & Steve, Just the Way God Made ‘Em”. The musical is sort of a campy look at religion and homosexuality. There are many silly numbers, but the overall message is acceptance. In the offstage world of the film, my character Eddie is struggling with his own coming out. His very Christian parents tell him that they are coming on opening night, but Eddie hasn’t told them the exact nature of the show. My amazing friend Daniel Robinson co-stars as Paul, who in a a search for true love, goes on a string of slutty adventures. The movie just played NYC for two weeks, and I was lucky enough to be in town for the premiere. I’m very proud of the film and I’m so happy it has been received so well. Hopefully it will play Vancouver and I’ll have an excuse to come back!
Which do you prefer – live theatre or film?
Theatre is my first love. I started performing live at a very young age and I’m pretty sure I will continue to do theatre for the rest of my life. That being said, I really enjoyed working on film. It’s exhausting work but in a totally different way. Film is also new for me and I hope to get more opportunities to create roles for film.
What’s next for Joey Dudding?
That’s a good question! I will be done touring with the show in November and I will go back home to NYC. After spending the holidays with my family in Virginia, it will be back to the audition room to get the next job. Wish me luck!
A Chorus Line
The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts
3-8 November 2009
Tickets on sale now at all Ticketmaster outlets, online at http://www.ticketmaster.ca or by calling 604-280-4444. Group orders for 10 tickets or more may be placed by calling 1-800-889-8457.