Why American in Paris’ Charlie Sutton is Making the Big Jump

Outside the Theatre   Why American in Paris’ Charlie Sutton is Making the Big Jump
 
After 15 years on Broadway, the dance veteran is ready for new challenges—he opens up about his “bittersweet” final performances.
Charles Sutton
Charles Sutton Monica Simoes
Charles Sutton
Charles Sutton Monica Simoes

Who: Charlie Sutton
Stopped: Outside the Palace Theatre on W. 47th Street

How long have you been in An American in Paris?
CS: I’ve been in the show since the beginning—since we went to Paris and since we did the out-of-town run. It’s been two years now.

What kind of feelings do you have about the show wrapping up on Broadway?
CS: It’s a bittersweet moment. While I’m going to be so sad to leave my friends, family and this beautiful show, you have to keep in mind that the only way new shows come in is if shows close. It’s sad, but we’ll all move on to something else and make new families and hope to stay connected.

When you get the news that a show is closing, does it imbue the final performances with a different kind of energy?
CS: We get a lot of notice, but you do keep those last moments precious, and you continually push yourself every single time to have more fun than the show before.

You’ve got a bit of time before the show starts tonight—what are you going to do?
CS: Right now I’m getting ready to go to rehearsal for an hour before heading back to this beautiful ballet.

You’re rehearsing for another show?
CS: Yes, a new play by Matthew Greene called Gregorian. It’s produced by a company that I work very closely with called Working Artists Theatre Project.

What kind of work do you do with them?
CS: I’m actually one of the co-artistic directors alongside Jessica Dermody, who is the founder and artistic director. The organization is for people like me. People in the theatrical community who want to spread their wings, who want to try new things without having to necessarily leave their jobs. For me, personally, I want to move on to choreographing. I’ve been on Broadway for 15 years—ten Broadway shows later—it’s time for me to try new things.

When I first started working with WATP five years ago, I wasn’t ready to make the jump. It’s really a place for people like me, who want to start the transition but aren’t comfortable leaving their jobs yet. They give us the space, the opportunities and the know-how to go and build a piece—a play, or a musical, during the day—and still come to your job at night. That applies to anybody inside the theatre, from musicians to doormen to the front of house. For instance, Gregorian’s playwright, Matthew, used to sell merchandise for Broadway shows and Jessica is a wardrobe supervisor. It gives us all the opportunity to go and play.

How do you like choreography?
CS: I love it. I thought I would be scared at first, but I really dove right in. I think, honestly, the experience of working for 15 years under Tony-winning choreographers, has rubbed off. You sit in rehearsals, just listening and watching, and it’s like going to college for 15 years—which seems like a long time. So I kind of feel like I have a doctorate in musical theatre now, but I love it and it feels so natural.

Is there space in your life for being both a choreographer and a dancer?
CS: No. I think I’ve finally come to that point where I’m making the big jump. I think this is my last show.

Who are three of your favorite choreographers?
CS: Hands down Jerry Mitchell, he’s always been a very good teacher to me. Rob Ashford from the get-go; I started working with him when I was 20, and he continues to bring me in. Christopher Wheeldon, he is amazing and An American in Paris is so different from anything I’ve ever worked on before. It’s a beautiful thing to see the ballet side of musical theatre.

READ MORE: WORKING ARTISTS THEATRE PROJECT TO DEBUT GREGORIAN

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