PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Christopher Gattelli, 2012 Tony Nominee for Newsies' Choreography

By Kenneth Jones
05 May 2012

Christopher Gattelli
Christopher Gattelli
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Newsies choreographer Christopher Gattelli, nominated for a 2012 Best Choreography Tony Award, talks about collaborating with his young cast to tell story through dance.

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Read more about Christopher Gattelli's Broadway career as a dancer (Cats, How to Succeed..) and choreographer (13, High Fidelity, Women on the Verge..., Godspell and his Tony-nominated work on South Pacific) in the Playbill Vault.

It's rare to see a large ensemble of male dancers together in a musical. They are an arresting sight in Newsies. I'm trying to think of when we last saw an ensemble like this. What's the show that sticks in your mind that was a male dance show in the past?
CG: The one that was inspiring to me was [the film] "Seven Brides [for Seven Brothers]," but I actually [danced in] the Jerry Zaks [tour of] Guys and Dolls [in 1992-93]. Chris Chadman choreographed that, and he was a huge inspiration to me in me choosing to do [choreography] as a profession. It was a group of, like, nine guys — Sergio [Trujillo] was in our group, Andy [Blankenbuehler] was in the group, this crazy-talented group of guys. I remember being surrounded by that amount of male talent and masculinity. And what [Chris] was able to bring out of us was incredibly inspiring to me. That is my last recollection of that kind of ensemble of men — technique, masculinity, the facility that we all had. To me, [Newsies] is that next group.



At the top of the rehearsal experience of Newsies, did you ask the guys, "What are your individual 'specialties'? What tricks can you do?" Everybody seems to have a featured moment.

Aaron J. Albano in Newsies.
photo by Deen van Meer

CG: The boys now call it "Circus McGurkus." [Laughs.] I was those boys 20 years ago. And you work really hard in class to find those special things that you can do, those little extra things that make you special. So, when I had them in the room, I said, "Look, I've been there, I've done this. If there's something that you'd like to do, or I could possibly use in some way to make use of story, but also feature you in a way, let's see it." Not everything they can do is in the show, but if there was a moment that we needed a little something — like Ryan [Steele]'s spins, when he spins on the newspaper. To me, that's a perfect way of marrying what he has to say about that paper — just grinding it into the ground — yet doing a skill that is stunning; it's kind of meshing all those different worlds.

 

It's story.
CG: It's story. It's absolutely story. Even when they back-flip, what that represents is their vitality and their energy and their youth. Pulitzer wouldn't do that. He's grounded. He barely gets out of his chair. So, that's the Old Generation. This is the New Generation — it's them flying and soaring. So every step, even though it may look a little fireworky, is very thought out. Everyone gets their moment to shine, and I'm really proud of them for letting me do that with them.

 Continued...