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Nicholas Dante; ‘Chorus Line’ Co-Author

<i> From Newsday</i>

Nicholas Dante, co-author of “A Chorus Line,” the longest-running show in Broadway history, died Tuesday of complications from AIDS.

He was 49.

Dante, who died in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital, was the fourth member of the “Chorus Line” creative team to die in recent years. Michael Bennett, the director and choreographer who conceived the show about the “gypsies” who dance in Broadway choruses, died of AIDS in 1987. Lyricist Edward Kleban died of cancer that year, and co-author James Kirkwood died of cancer in 1989.

Dante was a dancer whose own story--of a young gay man who is seen by his parents performing in a gay revue--became the affecting monologue for the character called Paul.

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“A Chorus Line” won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for drama, and Dante and Kirkwood shared the Tony Award for best book of a musical, one of nine Tonys the show won. The show closed April 28, 1990, after a record 6,137 performances.

Dante described his lonely childhood and his illness in a Jimmy Breslin column published March 31. “I grew up in the Forties, a Puerto Rican kid on 125th and Broadway, and obviously gay.” Because of it, he told Breslin, “nobody would hang out with me. . . . I was terrified to go out where anybody could see me.”

His real name was Conrado Morales. He danced in the choruses of musicals, nightclubs and television shows.

His dream of becoming a writer came true when Bennett tapped him to work on the “Chorus Line” book. In a Newsday interview when the show opened in 1975, Dante told of having been one of the dancers Bennett gathered in a rehearsal hall to tell the stories that became the basis for the show.

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“I was afraid to tell my story; my story was Paul’s story,” he recalled. But “I felt that if I was going to help the evening, then I had to open up. I did, and I told my story, which was devastating to Michael and to a lot of people.”

A private funeral is planned, and a memorial service will be held June 4.


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