Good Times and Bum Times Made These Theater Veterans Even Stronger

Good Times and Bum Times Made These Theater Veterans Even | ltc-a

When the songwriter Bob Merrill told her about his new musical, “Henry, Sweet Henry,” she flew back to New York to audition. That 1967 production’s choreographer asked if she would like to be a swing. “I had no idea what a swing was,” Lopez said. “I thought a swing was, like, you sit on a swing.” (She and Daniele hooted in unison.)

“Henry, Sweet Henry” turned out to be another flop, but that choreographer was none other than Michael Bennett. A few years later, Lopez would be one of the dancers whose stories formed the backbone of his classic show “A Chorus Line.” She originated the role of Diana, who sings “What I Did for Love” and “Nothing” — the latter drawing from Lopez’s time at the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan.

It’s to those formative years that, once again, Lopez reaches back when asked who her boosters were. First was her mother, who said that young Priscilla had worked too hard to get into the elite school and should not quit. Another early supporter was her acting teacher Vinnette Carroll. “As horrible as Mister Karp was, that’s how wonderful she was,” Lopez said, referring to the teacher who makes memorable running appearances in “Nothing.”

Bennett played a key role in Daniele’s life as well. He spotted her dancing in “Promises, Promises” in 1968, and took her under his wing. He incorporated some of her suggestions in “Coco” the following year, and made her one of his assistants in “Follies” (1971). She also played the young Vanessa in that production, but her increased responsibilities did not interfere with her impish humor. One of her dance partners, Steven Boockvor, was driving her up the wall with his jokes, so she decided to strike back in the “Loveland” number. “We were looking at each other closely for a long time,” Daniele said, “and one day I went …” She lets a string of spittle dangle from her lips. “Michael said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, I had a problem in my mouth and I was drooling.’”

In the 1970s, Lopez and Daniele participated in “The Milliken Breakfast Show,” a series of industrial musicals bolstered by the likes of Ann Miller, Robert Morse, Gwen Verdon and … Michael Bennett. One year, Lopez was Chita Rivera’s understudy. “It was a run-through and she had some appointment or something,” Lopez said. “Michael said, ‘Priscilla, get up here. Do it!’ I went [to a jaunty tune] bump-bump-bump-bump.”