Oak Bay actress returns to the local stage

A Chorus Line brings the singular sensation to the Mac

Oak Bay’s Alison Roberts as Cassie in A Chorus Line.

Alison Roberts feels a bit of a kindred spirit with her character in the Victoria Operatic Society’s production of A Chorus Line.

The Oak Bay High grad is back in town after a few years working on stages across Canada.

She channels those myriad experiences into her role as Cassie in A Chorus Line, a celebration of the unsung heroes of musical theatre, the chorus dancers. More than that, as the director, “Zack,” takes the audiences and cast members through the final grueling audition for a new Broadway musical, A Chorus Line is about competition, and that resonates with audiences.

“Cassie is a dancer who has come back. She was basically a star in New York and she decided to go away to do bigger things in L.A.,” Roberts said during a recent break in rehearsals.

Unfortunately for Cassie, she’s not a strong actor and lack of work on the West Coast sends her back east.

The transition is not necessarily easy, though.

“She’s having a tough time blending back into the chorus,” Roberts said.

Adding to the challenge is the personal history she shares with the director, Zack.

“A Chorus Line is probably my favourite show of all time. It’s the story of what we do as performers,” Roberts said.

“I like playing the character because I feel like I can relate to her on a lot of levels.”

First, there’s the love of performing. “She says, ‘I don’t want to wait tables and what I really don’t want to do is teach other people to do what I should be doing myself,’” Roberts said.

And in what can be a tough career, “I can also relate to the heartbreak of not working.”

With a minimal set, the actors and their stories take centerstage. “You get to see real people telling their stories.

“I think what resonates is it’s so raw and honest, but it’s also catchy,” she said.

Memorable musical numbers for these triple-threat performers include What I Did for Love, I Can Do That, The Music and the Mirror and I Hope I Get It, in addition to showstopper One.

For Roberts, the production provides the opportunity to return to the stage where it all began.

In addition to shows with Oak Bay High, Roberts also performed in numerous productions with the VOS. Starting dancing at just two years old, theatre came soon after. “I kind of did every possible thing I could do in Victoria,” she said. “This show for me is special because I haven’t done a show with VOS for six years. It’s pretty exciting to be back with the company I started with.”

A Chorus Line is a challenging show for the actors who must be singers, dancers and actors.

“I think people who don’t know much about the industry and the public will get a better look at the people in the shows and a greater appreciation for the ensembles that are in musical shows,” she said.

“Everyone should come see the show and see what goes on behind the scenes of an audition.”

Directed by Tara Britt, A Chorus Line is choreographed by Sylvia Hosie, with Yanik Giroux as musical director.

A Chorus Line opens tonight, Nov. 25, at the McPherson Playhouse and continues on select nights through Dec. 4.

Tickets are available through the Royal McPherson Box Office at 250-386-6121 or online at www.rmts.bc.ca.