In Loving Memory of Conrad Morales

Broadway Legend
In Loving Memory of Conrad Morales
Posted: 1/25/14 at 09:37pm
Conrad who? You ask.

He was better known by his stage name: Nicholas Dante, dancer and co-author of A CHORUS LINE. He won a Pulitzer prize along with James Kirkwood. The character of Paul San Marco IS Nicholas Dante's life.

More important for me, he is one of my theater heroes. He was Puerto Rican-American, New York born and raised and attained success when the odds were seemingly stacked against him.

He passed in 1991, at the age of 49, way too young. But he is not forgotten. A CHORUS LINE is his legacy and Paul's monologue lives on whenever it is performed to remind us:

Somebody told me they were looking for male dancers for the Jewel Box Revue, you know, the drag show. So, I go down to audition. Now, from all those years of pretending I was Cyd Charisse, I had this fabulous extension. I mean I could turn ... anything my first audition. And they said to me : "You're too short to be a boy, would you like to be a pony?"; And I said : "What's that?"; And they said : "A girl."; "What do I have to do?"; "Show us your legs." So I went and they hiked up my dungarees and they put on a pair of nylon stockings and high heels. It was freaky. It was incredible. And then they brought me back downstairs and they said: "Oh, you have wonderful legs." I said:"Really?...Terrific..."

It's so strange thinking about this. It was a whole lifetime ago. I was just past sixteen. Anyway, then there was this thing of me trying to hide it from my parents. That was something. 'Cause I had to buy all this stuff. Like, ah, shoes to rehearse in, earrings, make-up. And I would hide it all and my mother would find it. I told her there was this girl in the show and she didn't want her mother to know what she was doing and I was holding this stuff for her. She believed me.

Well, I was finally in show business. It was the asshole of show business - but it was a job... Nothing to brag about. I had friends. But after a while it was so demeaning. Nobody at the Jewel Box had any dignity and most of them were ashamed of themselves and considered themselves freaks. I don't know, I think it was the lack of dignity that got to me, so I left. Oh, I muddled around for a while. I worked as an office boy, a waiter - But without an education, you can't get a good job. So, when the Jewel Box called and asked if I'd come back, I went.

We were working the Apollo Theatre on a Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Street. Doing four shows a day with a movie. It was really tacky. The show was going to go to Chicago. My parents wanted to say goodbye and they were going to bring my luggage to the theatre after the show. Well, we were doing this oriental number and I looked like Anna May Wong. I had these two great big chrysanthemums on either side my head and a huge headdress with gold balls hanging all over it. I was going on for the finale and going down the stairs and who should I see standing by the stage door ... my parents. They got there too early. I freaked. I didn't know what to do. I thought to myself : "I know, I'll just walk quickly past them like all the others and they'll never recognize me." So I took a deep breath and started down the stairs and just as I passed my mother I heard her say : "Oh, my God." Well... I died. But what could I do? I had to go on for the finale so I just kept going. After the show I went back to my dressing room and after I'd finished dressing and taking my makeup off, I went back down stairs. And there they were standing in the middle of all these ... And all they said to me was please write, make sure you eat and take care of yourself. And just before my parents left, my father turned to the producer and said : "Take care of my son..."; That was the first time he ever called me that... I... ah... I... ah....

Here is Nicholas in full drag as part of the Jewel Box Revue:

More Jewel Box Revue.
Broadway Legend
In Loving Memory of Conrad Morales
Posted: 1/26/14 at 01:23am
Thanks for the lovely remembrance, Carlos. I did not know Conrad/Nicholas' story. I get a lump in my throat every time I "discover" a former performing artist and all too often read about their early demise in those dark days of the AIDS crisis. The number of artists in music, film, theatre, dance, art -- and of course all walks of life -- is just staggering.

Also, while diversity on Broadway is getting better with each generation, I agree that it's important to remember those artists who helped break down barriers. I have to admit I get a small twinge of pride whenever I see a talented South Asian actor hit the boards. Unfortunately, that is still all too rare these days, but maybe in a generation or two theatre will catch up with tv in that respect. Anyways. Here's to Conrad!
Broadway Legend
In Loving Memory of Conrad Morales
Posted: 1/26/14 at 04:59am
Yes, HorseTears we must never forget. I'm filled with a sense of pride whenever I see a performer of Latino descent. It's important to acknowledge those who paved the way, opened the doors, knocked down the walls and blazed the trails for us.

Here's Nicholas with his 'Chorus Line' collaborators. He's the one smiling on the right while Michael Bennett (center) looks on. James Kirkwood is on the left and behind them are Edward Kleban (left) and Marvin Hamlisch (right).

They are all gone now but their legacy lives on.
Broadway Legend
In Loving Memory of Conrad Morales
Posted: 1/26/14 at 10:54am
He was a dancer in the original cast of Applause...along with Sammy Williams who played Paul and performed that monologue in A Chorus Line.
yr pal,

Blocked so far: suestorm, Master Bates
In Loving Memory of Conrad Morales
Posted: 1/28/14 at 12:15pm
I saw Chorus Line several times during its Broadway run. Paul.s monologue never failed to move is a beautiful piece.....