Ruggieri in tune with ‘A Chorus Line’

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The South Philly resident is enjoying life on the road as a member of the national tour cast

By Bill Gelman

Andrew Ruggieri plans on spending the majority of the next several months living out of a suitcase. The lifestyle of traveling from town to town on a tour bus can get to become an exhausting routine rather quickly, but for this South Philly resident it’s a dream opportunity. He is one of the cast members in the national tour of “A Chorus Line.” The first leg of the tour opened in California last month, and will conclude in September.

For Ruggieri, who calls Lower Moyamensing home, the opportunity to play Mike marks his debut on the national tour circuit. The experience has included learning the choreography from Baayork Lee, who has performed in a dozen Broadway shows and created the role of Connie in “A Chorus Line.”

“It’s such a great feeling to be taught by the original choreographer. She is so iconic. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling,” Ruggieri, 28, said.

The actor may not have Broadway experiences on his acting resume, but being on stage is far from a new experience for the former University of the Arts student. His credits include playing the role of Sam in “Ghost,” Chris in “Miss Saigon” and appearing in the Walnut Street Theatre’s version of “South Pacific.” His current role is quite different from the rest.

“[“A Chorus Line”] is not like other shows I’ve done,” he said, “Everyone on the line is a lead. It’s about everyone telling a story of what it takes to be in the business.”

Besides spending February traveling to Indiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, the commitment involved several weeks of intense training in New York City. Many of the rehearsal sessions went from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. The longer sessions were part of what is referred to as tech week in which the performers get in costume and a do a runthrough with the band and sets.

“It was a lot,” Ruggieri said, “It gave us an idea of what it was going to be like when we open.”

The show opened Jan. 26 in California. Some stops are one-day visits while other stops include multiple performances. Later this month, Feb. 23 through 25, there will be three shows at the Scranton Cultural Center in Scranton. The longer stops may include a chance to check out some of the scenery, but the main focus is on entertaining crowds across the country.

Ruggieri, who spent part of his childhood participating in classes at Jason Douglas DanceAdelphia, 1100 Snyder Ave., will be taking his talents overseas in September. The cast found out about the second day of rehearsals that the tour will include performances in Japan.

“It’s awesome.” he said. “For me it’s the most rewarding show that I have ever been in.”

There are likely to be other exciting opportunities down the road as Ruggieri plans on being on stage for years to come. Whether he gets cast in another national tour, hits the Philly theater circuit or ends up on the biggest stage of them all — Broadway — remains to be seen.

“Right now, I like where I am,” he said. “Broadway would be my ultimate goal.”

For more information about the national tour of “A Chorus Line,” including tour dates and locations, visit achoruslineontour.com.