Jordan Fife Hunt stars as Paul in ‘A Chorus Line.’
by Donalevan Maine
Jordan Fife Hunt, who plays Paul, the gay Puerto Rican in A Chorus Line July 16–21 at Miller Outdoor Theatre, was a budding gymnast in Houston when he saw the movie version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 musical that forever changed Broadway.
To musical theater purists, director Richard Attenborough faltered badly when he adapted Michael Bennett’s groundbreaking classic to the screen in 1985, but it was good enough to forever change the trajectory of Hunt’s life.
“I don’t think I saw anything gay or straight about it,” says Hunt, who came out to his parents when he was fifteen
years old, the summer before his sophomore year at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in Montrose. “I remember loving all of the characters, and really loving the dancing. I was maybe eight or nine, and without knowing what it really meant to be gay, I just really enjoyed the dancing parts, which transcended everything beyond all of that.
“I fell in love with dancing, so I enrolled in dancing classes, and the rest is history.”
The TUTS production is Hunt’s second time to perform outdoors (after portraying Prince Abdullah in Disney’s Aladdin in last summer’s 94th season at The Muny in St. Louis) and his fourth time to perform in A Chorus Line.
“I’ve always been the swing, which means that I learned multiple parts,” Hunt explains. “Paul is my favorite role—I’ve covered it as a swing. My ethnicity is African-American and a European mix, so I’m not Latin at all, but I look Latin.”
The audience meets Paul in an empty theater, on a bare stage, as casting for a new Broadway musical is coming to a close. For seventeen hoofers, this audition is the chance of a lifetime—everything they’ve worked for and dreamed of (cue the classic “What I Did for Love”).
When the imperious director, Zach, asks Paul to introduce himself, he recounts the torment of his childhood and adolescence, his early career as a female impersonator, and coming to terms with his sexuality. Sharing his parents’ reaction to finding out he’s gay, Paul breaks down onstage.
As Paul in several workshops and an off-Broadway production, Sammy Williams won the Obie Award for best actor, then followed that with a Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical when A Chorus Line opened on Broadway on July 25, 1975. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for drama (a rarity among musicals), the show won nine Tony Awards, shutting out Bob Fosse’s Chicago. (Of course, the movie version of Chicago won six Academy Awards, including best picture, while the ill-fated 1985 film adaptation of A Chorus Line lost its three nods, for sound, film editing, and original song.)
“It’s beautiful to play such a role from the heart,” says Hunt. “I mean, I think it’s very empowering. It’s a very, very strong role. Paul is a character who is emotional and sensitive but still masculine. It’s very emotional to share someone’s story like that.”
About his own coming out, Hunt says, “It was not as bad as it could have been. First, I told my mother. She told me that she already knew and was just waiting for me to tell her. Whatever support I needed, she said she was happy to provide me.
“My father was a little more upset because of our religious background,” says Hunt. “But he was never, ever angry. It was more of a questioning moment for him. I always felt loved. I think it was wonderful how my parents reacted.”
Hunt reveals that he was brought up in the Mormon Church. “I kind of let that go as a religious guidepost,” he explains, “but I still very much appreciate how I was laid down with a good moral foundation. It taught me to treat others respectfully.”
Hunt also enjoyed seeing The Book of Mormon, which won the 2011 Tony Award for best musical on Broadway. “It is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen,” he says. “It’s completely zany and creative and awesome.”
In addition to Hunt, the Chorus Line cast features out performer Logan Keslar, who grew up in Liberty and went to school at HSPVA before playing a drag queen in La Cage aux Folles on Broadway; Caitlin Cannon, a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette who grew up in the Bay Area (she recently married a security guard at the Hobby Center); out actor/choreographer Rob Flebbe, who recently moved to New York City after making a splash in One Touch of Venus last fall at Bayou City Concert Musicals (BCCM); Julia Krohn and Alissa LaVergne, who live in the Heights; Megan McGuff, a Pearland beauty who is fresh out of high school after playing Elle Woods last fall in the TUTS Humphreys School production of Legally Blonde; Rachel Broussard of Spring; and Courtney Jones of Montrose, who acted with Tye Blue in Houston Grand Opera’s Show Boat in January. A Chorus Line has a dynamic score by the late Marvin Hamlisch.
What: A Chorus Line
When: 8:15 p.m., July 16–21
Where: Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive
Tickets: Free tickets (limited to four per person) for covered seats are available on the day of performance between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Miller Theatre box office. Remaining tickets are given out one hour before curtain. For each $50 tax-deductible donation to TUTS, the organization sets aside two reserved tickets under the covered pavilion. To reserve tickets, visit tuts.com/donatenow or call 713/558-2651. Unfilled seats are released to the general public at 8 p.m.
More info: tuts.com or milleroutdoortheatre.com.
Donalevan Maines also writes about Gregg Nystrom in this issue of OutSmart.