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Meet Hilton Head’s theatrical guru, from ‘A Chorus Line’ to Edna in ‘Hairspray’

Director/choreographer Casey Colgan rehearsing with cast members of “A Chorus Line,” on stage at the Art Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island.
Director/choreographer Casey Colgan rehearsing with cast members of “A Chorus Line,” on stage at the Art Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island. Submitted

Casey Colgan and I met up for the very first time more than 30 years ago. He was on Hilton Head Island to see to his important role in the festivities associated with the celebration of the opening of our all new, gleaming arts center.

He was tall, handsome, high spirited and energetic, and I remember the day, almost down to the gnat’s eyelash.

He was enthusiastic and full of anticipation about the arts center, and its opening, and especially about future performances. As he spoke, animatedly, about popular musicals, and his part as a member of the casts, he would frequently punctuate his comments with, “Do you know what I mean?”

Now ... all these years later, Casey Colgan, famed director, choreographer, Broadway performer, teacher, and talent scout ... a true polymath ... returned to Hilton Head, generally, and the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, specifically, to direct and choreograph a favorite of his, and of so many, “A Chorus Line, “ with choreography by Michael Bennet and music by Marvin Hamlisch.

“I was overjoyed,” said Colgan, as he described the kind of beginning, middle and the continuum of his theatrical, multi-level leadership of the Hilton Head, 2019, version of one of the landmark, extraordinarily popular productions in musical theater.

“How overjoyed I was to have another ‘whack’ at this absolute favorite, ‘A Chorus Line,’ ” said Colgan. “First, I love it, and second, I would have the opportunity to put in place many of the ‘maybe I could try this ... or what about that’ questions that I always have during the run of a show.

“The other thought is related to the intent, or desire of the creators .... what would Hamlisch and Bennet think, if they were still among us? Clearly times have changed since it was written all of those years ago ... issues of equality, race, background, and lifestyles have changed so impressively.”

Beginnings on Hilton Head

Colgan laughed as he reminisced about his earliest days on Hilton Head Island.

After his decision to redirect his career focus from college to the theater, he set out for New York City, where he auditioned and connected and followed up with countless casting opportunities.

“Really, though, I got my serious start in all of the elements that actually make up musical theater, when I met up and joined in the efforts of Don Hite, who, while a teacher at Hilton Head Prep, was creating the most amazing musicals.

“We partnered with productions like ‘The Wiz,’ ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘Our Time, a Musical Revue.’ We balanced each other, musically and choreographically, in those productions, all of which were so successful ... and roundly received.”

“Simultaneously, Dallas Dunnagan, who was seeing to the theater productions at Dunnagan’s Alley, and I got together, too, and made great plans for our future,” he said. “She gave me such a theatrical boost.”

During those halcyon Hilton Head years, Colgan lived on Hilton Head during theatrical projects, but kept his presence on the theater scene in New York, which continued to move him along in a variety of theater-arts directions.

Happily, his efforts began to take flight.

“Really, I am so lucky, I now have three career roles in New York,” Colgan said. “I am on the faculty of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), where I teach dance; I am a director, choreographer, even performer, in Off-Broadway productions in New York, and actually, around the country, even Argentina and London; and I am a talent scout, a kind of Simon Cowell character, who sets out to find potential stars, and then to encourage young talent.”

Most memorable

We wrapped up one of our many texts and tel/cons with a just-for-fun query from me. I wanted to know which were some of his most memorable productions as a director/choreographer, right here on Hilton Head.

Of course, in no particular order, he said: “A Chorus Line,” “The Wiz,” “Aida,” “Les Miserables,” “Mama Mia,” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”

I followed up with, “What about performances?”

“I don’t do as many performances here, anymore,” he said. “I do so much traveling. But I have to say, Edna in ‘Hairspray’ was a total blast, start to finish. Do you know what I mean?”

If you go

The final performance of “A Chorus Line” will be staged on June 2, and if you haven’t seen the over-the-top production, you must be certain to book your reservation now. The production is an absolute “must-see.” The entire cast is superb, and the performances, memorably first-rate, are pivotal and contribute to the overwhelming success of the show.

For information: Artshhi.com; 843-842-2787.

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