How an Argentine flight attendant landed at a Maryland dinner theater to choreograph ‘A Chorus Line’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'A Chorus Line' at Toby's Dinner Theatre (Part 1)
Toby's Dinner Theatre stages "A Chorus Line." (Toby's Dinner Theatre)(Courtesy Toby's Dinner Theatre)

Don’t be surprised if you see a kickline break out at the buffet during intermission at this singular sensation!

Choreographer Vincent Musgrave, a part-time flight attendant, says he’s on cloud nine to be part of “A Chorus Line,” which has landed at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, Maryland, and runs through March 12.

“The cast is young, energetic, all-dancing, all-singing and the buffet is delicious,” choreographer Vincent Musgrave told WTOP. “Please make sure that you get your tickets and come out to see us. You won’t regret the evening, it’s entertaining and very energetic. So, if you’re a theater lover, please put this in your calendar and come see us.”

Set in New York City, the story follows 17 dancers auditioning for the chorus line of a Broadway show. Along the way, the characters share what inspired them to become dancers and choreographers in the first place.

“Unlike nowadays when so many of these performers have to be triple threats, meaning they have to sing, dance and act, back in the day they would hire a chorus line (and) all you did was dance in the background,” Musgrave said. “The premise is watching these dancers audition for a Broadway show, but the plot twist is that the director has decided he wants some of them to play bit parts, so he would like to hear them talk.”

The show features iconic musical numbers by Marvin Hamlisch (music) and Edward Kleban (lyrics).

“There’s ‘God I Hope I Get It,’ which is the big opening number,” Musgrave said. “They’re all forced to answer the question of ‘What are you going to do when you can’t dance anymore?’ It brings on the famous song, ‘What I Did for Love.’ Of course, ‘One,’ which goes: ‘One, a singular sensation,’ is the big finale number which most people know as the big number done with the gold tuxedos and the big top hats…very sparkly.”

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Musgrave often flew back and forth to the U.S. to see Broadway shows, including the original 1975 production of “A Chorus Line,” winner of nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It became the longest-running Broadway show in history at 6,137 performances until its record was broken by “Cats” in 1997. (The record is now held by “The Phantom of the Opera,” followed by “Chicago,” “The Lion King” and “Wicked.”)

“I was able to see the original run with the original people, (and) that is what sparked my interest,” Musgrave said. “Growing up as a dancer, I never really thought I could pursue a theater gig. After seeing ‘A Chorus Line,’ I (thought), ‘Oh, wait a minute, we can sing, talk and dance all at the same time? Let me see what that’s all about.’ So I switched my focus and promptly tried to pursue that whole avenue. It was an eye-opening event to see it live.”

Musgrave moved to New York City in 1984 before landing in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he began working at a theme park with co-workers who encouraged him to become a flight attendant on Piedmont Airlines.

“Their thought process was, ‘It could take you to all of your auditions, just hop on a plane and go wherever you want for auditions,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, that would be really cool, I wouldn’t have to pay for airfare or travel,'” Musgrave said. “I’ve been able to work at The Royal Albert Hall in London, as well as sing in the Wembley Arena … It has allowed me the comfort of being able to pick gigs without having to worry about the financial aspect.”

He eventually settled in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1988 and began performing at Toby’s in 1998.

“This is my first choreography gig with them,” Musgrave said. “The set design is very sparse because you’re technically seeing a bare stage in an audition process. We do have some mirrors … but the staging of this show had to be very different. This show is typically held (with) a white line painted across the stage. … We have created that line, but because we are in the round, we had to take into consideration everyone’s vantage point.”

Watching all of that dancing, you might just work up an appetite.

“Toby’s has wonderful food,” Musgrave said. “There is a salad bar that is open with all of your favorite mixings and fixings. On the buffet, they always like to have fun with the way that they write things. We have ‘Cassie’s Cabbage,’ ‘Mike’s Meatballs’ and ‘Maggie’s Vegetables.’ They pay homage to each of the characters in the show. Of course, there is always the Spinach Phunque, which is their famous spinach-and-cheese casserole.”

How’s that for a midflight meal?

Listen to our full conversation here.

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'A Chorus Line' at Toby's Dinner Theatre (Part 2)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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