Song & Dance Man
Feb 05, 2013 08:37AM
● By tina
Southlake's Pim van Amerongen stars as "Don" in the Broadway Revival of A Chorus Line
A Southlake Star Shines Bright
Pim van Amerongen Stars in the Broadway Revival of A Chorus Line
“When I was a kid, I was singing all the time,” says Pim Van Amerongen as he gazes out the window of his Milwaukee hotel room, eyes fixated on the Wisconsin Center. Tonight he will cross the street and tackle his life’s dream head on as a cast member of the Marvin Hamlisch musical- A Chorus Line.
Pim, a theater fan since as far back as his mother can remember, graduated from Carroll Senior High School in 2008 and is currently enjoying the sights and sounds traveling across the country as the acclaimed Broadway revival completes its six-month U.S. tour.
As Fate Would Have It
For Pim, playing the role of “Don Kerr” is bit of an ironic twist of fate. If you are not familiar with the story of A Chorus Line, it’s based on a book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicolas Dante about 17 dancers auditioning for—wait for it—a spot in a Broadway musical. Throughout the auditions, each member tells their personal story of how and why they made the decisions to become dancers.
“Out of all of the cast of characters, I see myself most like Don,” Pim explains. Amongst the exciting cast, which includes a flamboyant “Bobby,” an ageless “Connie” and the troubled childhood of “Paul,” Don stands out just for being somewhat normal.
In the role, Pim can easily relate. “Don is a normal guy, a mid-western kid who always loved theater. Not much more to it than that.” However, the similarities go a little deeper since both Pim and his character in the show moved to New York City to audition for a role on this particular chorus line.
In reality, Pim graduated Cum Laude in the spring of 2012 with a fine arts degree in Musical Theater from the Boston Conservatory. Founded in 1867, the school is the oldest performing arts conservatory in the nation and is internationally recognized for its music, dance and theater programs.
After graduation, Pim packed his bags and left Boston for the bright lights of New York City. Immediately upon moving to the Big Apple in August, he was quickly living the quintessential metropolitan lifestyle of an “emerging artist.” Secured with a small apartment and a job waiting tables at a nearby Tribeca steakhouse. Pim wasting little time explained, “In my first week, I went to eight auditions.”
And within a month, his confidence grew along with the number of auditions, which was now in the twenties. His proximity to the heart of Broadway and his drive to become a star was starting to pay dividends.
“I remember seeing the August calling for ACL [A Chorus Line] but I was finishing up a summer show in New Hampshire,” he recalls, “so when I saw the second posting on September 2nd I asked for the day off from work.”
Bolstered by the opinions of his theater friends and knowing in his heart he wanted the role of Don, he wore the character’s signature striped shirt, going the extra mile for his tryout.
“We all had to dance the opening combination to the show,” Pim recalls. “I was nervous, but felt very good about it.”
Pim made the first cut and then did a nerve-racking ballet solo for the casting directors. “When I was younger, I didn’t consider myself to be a strong dancer, but taking dance classes at the Conservatory really helped me excel on stage.”
After making the second cut, he sang for the casting directors and with little feedback from them went to his night shift at the steakhouse. While at work that night, he received a call to report the very next day to read for the part of Don. A successful read-through led to the call he had dreamed of his entire life—he got the part. “Of course, I was very excited. My audition was a success!” he said.
A Star is Born
Pim’s mother, Beth, and father, Marcel, have always enjoyed music and theater and made sure their three kids were exposed to the arts at an early age. Beth sang in the choir, played the piano and performed in theater while Marcel played both the piano and the violin. “The whole family enjoys theater and it has always been a part of our lives,” says Beth.
But there seemed to be something special early on with little Pim…
“It sounds hard to believe,” says Beth, “but Pim actually sang before he spoke. We remember one day in the car, he was just nine months old and he sang along with us. He was on pitch and sang with the beat. That was the first time we knew he had talent.”
Growing up as a young boy in Charlotte, North Carolina, Pim explored other activities but he always gravitated back toward performing. He loved it so much; it didn’t take any prodding from the family for him to join the local children’s theater group. As one of the only boys, he had little trouble getting parts and promptly earned the role of “Prince” in their fairy tale adaptation, Unlucky Cinderella.
His stage presence showed from that very first leading role. In the lighthearted rendition of the fairy tale classic, Pim was to sing the ballad “Ten Minutes Ago,” but as often happens in children’s theater a cue was missed. Like dominoes, one thing led to another and Pim missed the opportunity to sing his first solo. Knowing already that the show must go on, he just kept right with his lines. “I was so proud of how he handled it,” recalls Beth. “He just let it all roll off his back.”
By the sixth grade, Pim was enrolled in a North Carolina magnet school for visual and performing arts. It was the first time he took drama classes and he thoroughly enjoyed doing so. Excelling at his new school, Pim was the only sixth grader to be cast in the middle school’s production of Annie Junior. Playing the role of “Rooster,” he already had a knack for immersing himself in his character. So much so that when he first walked on stage with the swagger and Rooster’s thick New Jersey accent his own mother could barely recognize him.
After the completion of the song “Easy Street,” he finished on his knees just starring at the lights as the audience cheered. It was at this moment that his parents began to see the potential in their young son.
Marcel’s job would have the family move on more than one occasion. Sad to leave his new school in North Carolina, the family moved to Germany for two years where Pim continued with his theatrical studies and added classes in choir and took saxophone lessons.
On the move yet again, the family relocated to Southlake in 2005 and Pim was enrolled at Carroll ISD as a freshman. By watching fellow Dragons excel on stage and then head on to colleges for the arts, Pim realized he too could pursue his own dream as something more than a hobby.
“People always asked me if I wanted to someday be on Broadway,” Pim explained, “I always knew the answer was ‘yes,’ but I didn’t know if it was realistic. As much as I loved performing I thought of theater as a hobby, not a profession.”
Living in Southlake, Pim took part in plenty of the Dallas and Fort Worth community theater including stints with the Ohlook Performing Arts Center in Grapevine, and Casa Manana in Fort Worth. “Ohlook was a big part of my life. I enjoyed performing in Thoroughly Modern Millie and a lot more great community theater,” said Pim.
Just as importantly he met plenty of others who shared his passion. Plenty of kids in community theater, Pim included, would find their way to auditioning for colleges. Through this process, he was accepted into the Boston Conservatory, where he fell in love with the city and once again jumped into the community arts scene.
In many ways, attending college in Boston was the perfect setting for Pim to immerse himself in the arts. Being close to New York was a good thing, he was on the east coast, but could still focus on growing as an actor without the distractions of the big city dream. Also, Boston seemed to him like a small version of New York where he could enjoy, “a big city with a small atmosphere that is easy to get around.”
Conquering New York and the US Tour
After completing advanced dance courses, several main stage musicals and a healthy amount of community theater in Boston, Pim was now more than ready to take on the Big Apple and find a regular paying job as an actor.
Pim had found some paying Summer Stock performances while in Boston where he would make several hundred dollars rehearsing and performing in short-lived productions. “We would work extremely hard to learn the show, our lines and the choreography,” he explained of the contracts that lasted only two weeks and would include usually three performances.
Through it all, to become a regularly paid actor in New York was a lifelong goal, which began when the intensive training for A Chorus Line began in early October. With both exhilarating and stressful long hours six days a week, Pim learned every step and note as the entire cast readied themselves for the opening night performance in Tacoma, Washington. The last of the training consisted of “tech rehearsals” on stage in Tacoma to iron out the remaining kinks in dry run-through.
On October 26, Pim and company took to the stage for the first of 72 stops on the tour. On seeing her son take to the stage for the very first time as a true professional Beth admitted, “It was all so surreal, I was just still in shock.” But after the most recent trek to see him perform nearby in Texarkana, she has seen six different performances and now fully appreciates the performances saying, “Pinch me! He was great!”
Family, friends and past teachers have all had opportunities to see Pim in action and the reviews have been outstanding. Above all, everyone is generally happy for his success in doing something he loves.
For Pim, a fan of such big stage productions as Wicked and Legally Blonde (recently performed by the Carroll Theater Department), he’s taking it all in stride. Enjoying the camaraderie of the cast, seeing the country and living in hotels, (they clean up after him) he says life on the road is never boring. Getting paid, along with travel expenses and the applicable per diem makes it all even better.
As for the future, Pim will head back to his New York City apartment and more auditioning when the current tour ends in March. After that, he admits, “You can’t really say, anything could happen.” Maybe another tour or maybe a cruise-line production—he’s just thrilled to be living his dream.
The original production of A CHORUS LINE opened at the Public Theater’s Newman Theater on May 21, 1975 and transferred to Broadway’s Shubert Theatre on July 25, opening there on October 19 of that year. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Score and Book, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. It ran for nearly 15 years, closing on April 28, 1990 after 6,137 performances. On September 29, 1983, A CHORUS LINE became the longest-running American musical in Broadway history and held this title for 28 years from 1983 to 2011 (when it was surpassed by Chicago).