Actors’ Equity Association, the national union for professional theatre actors and stage managers, honored the resilience of Broadway's chorus members during the pandemic November 9 during a ceremony marking the reopening of Equity’s New York City Audition Center.
Rather than honor a single chorus in a new Broadway show as it usually does, the ACCA (Equity’s Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs) honored everyone in the Broadway choruses who faced the challenges of navigating the pandemic, both in the new and still-running shows of the shuttered 2019-20 Broadway season, as well as in the shows that brought Broadway back in the 2021-22 season.
The chorus members of the following shows received the honor: Ain't Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, Aladdin, Beetlejuice, The Book of Mormon, Chicago, Diana, Funny Girl, Frozen, Girl From the North Country, Hadestown, Hamilton, Jagged Little Pill, The Lion King, MJ The Musical, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Music Man, Paradise Square, The Phantom of the Opera, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, West Side Story, Waitress, and Wicked.
Tony winner Jerry Mitchell, who was on hand for the ceremony, stated, "I started in the chorus, and the funny thing is, I still feel like I’m in the chorus. None of my shows could have made it through the pandemic without the ensemble performers. COVID changed all of us, but the truth is the ensemble, the chorus—we had it. There’s something about an ensemble person that is in your DNA that makes you different. You have the ability to make it happen. When I need help, when I need to make it better, when I need to lift a production number, I look at around at the ensemble members.”
Al Bundonis, vice president of Actors' Equity and chair of ACCA, added, “16 chorus musicals shuttered overnight in March of 2020. The members of those choruses showed strength in adversity—the ability to adapt and accept change. The ability to handle change is something that is built into the DNA of every member of a chorus. But those performing on Broadway during the pandemic brought change to a new level. The chorus has become the MVP of this industry. And while the ACCA Award is specific to Broadway, these extraordinary tasks are being performed across the country by chorus members keeping the curtain up, allowing a show to go on.”
The Special ACAA award is given to original chorus members in honor of their contributions to the artform. Initially given to Legally Blonde in 2007, successive recipients have included In the Heights (2008), West Side Story (2009), Fela! (2010), The Scottsboro Boys (2011), Newsies (2012), Pippin (2013), Beautiful – The Carole King Musical (2014), An American in Paris (2015), Shuffle Along, Or The Making Of The Musical Sensation Of 1921 And All That Followed (2016), Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 (2017), Once on This Island (2018), and Hadestown (2019). This year marked the first time the award has been given to a season collective, rather than one specific show.