When “A Chorus Line” first opened in 1975, many theatergoers were rightly concerned about “token black characters” in the arts. In fact, this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical has only one African American character in it, albeit a memorable featured part.
New York-based actor-dancer Delius Doherty was well aware of this consideration as he played the flashy role of “Richie” in the in-the-round revival of the landmark show at North Shore Music Theatre.
Recently the 22-year-old Houston native spoke to the Banner about the role, the show, his connection with the Boston area and his career plans as a young African American talent.
Richie is a character with a lot of energy, so much so that at one point his high-stepping moves land him in the arms of Zach, the director looking to hire four men and four women for the title line of the new show. Doherty embraced the role for the positive image it gives of a young African American as much as for the energy it demands and the challenges it presents.
Doherty enjoys the flashy moments of dancing and singing that the characters have in the early number “And” as a group of dancers supply information about their respective lives. He also warms to the vitality Richie displays in the company ode to adolescent growing pains “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love.”
“My range soars with the meatiness of the role,” Jones said.
Doherty also sees the part as an opportunity for a positive statement about African Americans. “I can be the one to show that your show (Zach’s) is ethnically diverse,” he offered.
Doherty also identifies with Richie in an “alternative scene,” in which the characters all discuss their future options when they retire from dance.
Doherty revealed that “People say you’re working,” but the ambitious and highly motivated performer admits,”I want to do more than just dance and sing. I want to touch people.”
Detailing his plans, much as Richie and his counterparts do, Doherty said,” I want to act. I see myself doing movies and television. I would love to have a musical theater camp someday.”
That future may include an Off-Broadway show called “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda,” workshopped already by the York Theatre Company, in which he joined the likes of former Hub singer-actress Stephanie Umoh. He called the Tony-nominated performer (for a recent revival of “Ragtime”) “such a talent and a beautiful person.”
That show, focused on an interracial couple in the 1980s, found jazz helping to bring understanding between two very different families. “Woulda, Coulda,Shoulda” is under consideration for full production.
For now, Doherty continues to make the most of “A Chorus Line.” “It’s the perfect embodiment of musical theater,” he declared. The North Shore Music Theatre run has also given Doherty an opportunity for a kind of family reunion — specifically with an uncle named Stephen.
Stephen and Doherty’ father Oladipo ran an import and export company together in Lynn when Doherty was 15. Doherty fondly remembers two summers he spent in Lynn. Now that he drives, he is getting to see Boston as well. Doherty called Boston “one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”
“A Chorus Line” is one of Doherty’ favorite shows, and the largely sensational performers in the North Shore Music Theatre revival had first timers and fans alike agreeing.
Mark Martino, reprising the original choreography and staging, made full use of the in-the-round theater, capturing the elements of the title’s metaphorical lines and moving performers to the aisles in some sequences. The result was a production that transcended the challenges of the round and succeeded in making the audience identify with the dancers as fellow participants in the dance of life.
Ensemble numbers shined — especially the famous “One” finale. At the same time, there were several standouts among the featured performers. Rebecca Riker, who brought elegance and excitement to gifted dancer Cassie’s famous solo “The Music and the Mirror” also proved to be one of the best singers in the role in recent memory.
Katie Cameron had great attitude as ballet-trained Sheila, and Derek Hanson captured Zach’s real concern that Cassie will waste her talent if she toes the line with the chorus. Jonathan Day was acrobatically strong as Mike, and Doherty matched his rapid moves as Richie with richly resonant singing.
“A Chorus Line” ran on Broadway for nearly 15 years. The North Shore revival beautifully sustained that kind of love affair with dance.