By Krissy Montville '14
Surrounded by professional actors and actresses at Lancaster's Fulton Theatre during the final round of auditions for "A Chorus Line" in December, Franklin & Marshall dancer Laurel Haitoff ’15 got a last-minute shock. She would have to sing her way into the part.
"Everyone was looking through their binders of sheet music to see which impressive Broadway song they would have the pianist play," Haitoff said. "I was practicing the national anthem -- the only song that came to my head at the moment."
After anxiously waiting days for callbacks, Haitoff was informed she had landed parts in not one show, but two: "A Chorus Line," which recently wrapped its three-week run at the Fulton, and "Dreamgirls," which opened April 23 and runs through May 12.
"All my dreams are coming true," said Haitoff, who began her dancing career at the age of 3 and continued throughout middle and high school, where she also dabbled in acting.
One of Broadway's most beloved and highly acclaimed shows, "A Chorus Line" follows the lives of 15 hopeful actors as they face the world of auditions on the main stage. Haitoff, a psychology and Spanish double major at F&M, won the role of an aspiring dancer who is ultimately cut after competitive auditions. She continued to appear on stage throughout the show in dynamic group dance scenes.
"My favorite thing about the show was being able to watch the professional actors and dancers because they fueled my desire to continue something that I'm so passionate about," Haitoff said.
Haitoff credits several F&M dance professors for their support, including Lynn Brooks, the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and Dance; Assistant Professor of Dance Pamela Vail; and Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Jennifer Conley.
"Laurel dances with a joy and total investment that make you want to watch her -- and you smile while you do," Brooks said. "She is a light on the stage. Of course, that draws everyone's attention to her, including the casting directors at the Fulton. She is a lovely performer, a delightful mover, someone who is truly at home on the stage."
Attending eight-hour practices six days a week prior to the show, Haitoff balances rehearsal with the many activities in which she participates on campus. She is Kappa Delta Sorority's vice president of public relations, works as a tour guide for the Office of Admission, and is a member of both the dance team and F&M Dance Company.
Haitoff said the experience opened her eyes to the dedication, commitment, and energy required to be a professional dancer and singer. As the youngest cast member at the Fulton Theater, Haitoff said the cast has been supportive, offering her advice on managing a career in theater.
"I always get nervous performing on stage, but the nervousness is a catalyst for getting focused for the show," Haitoff said. "The most exciting moment is seeing a standing ovation at the end of a great performance. It is hands down the most amazing feeling."
Fulton director Marc Robin, who used artistic adaptations to bring a new twist to "A Chorus Line," praised Haitoff's talent and dedication to the show.
"[Laurel] is a terrific talent and a joy in the rehearsal room," Robin said.
Haitoff will continue to gain experience on the stage this summer. Robin offered her an internship at the Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick, Maine. While there, Haitoff will perform in "Les Miserables," "Mary Poppins" and "Gypsy."