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Interview With Choreographer And Tony Nominee Christopher Gattelli

"Newsies" Broadway Opening Night (credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Christopher Gattelli is a two-time Tony Award nominee for his choreography work on Lincoln Center's revival of South Pacific and currently Disney's Newsies. Gattelli's prior Broadway work includes Godspell, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Sunday In The Park With George, The Ritz, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, 13 and High Fidelity. His moves have been seen Off-Broadway in Altar Boyz, Bat Boy and tick,tick..BOOM!, and in London's West End in South Pacific, Sunday In The Park and tick, tick...BOOM! He's sauntered off with two Lortel Awards, a Callaway Award and a Drama Desk nomination for his trouble.

Gattelli also directed and provided choreography for Silence! The Musical, the world premiere of Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas, Radio Girl, How To Save The World... and Departure Lounge. His work has also been featured in the Actors Fund Benefits Concerts of Hair (w/Jennifer Hudson) and Chess (w/Josh Groban), and three seasons of The Rosie O'Donnell Show.

I recently sat down with him to chat about his Newsies Tony nomination.

Christopher Gattelli (credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Who or what inspired you to become a choreographer?

I think my original influences were Christopher Chadman who choreographed the Jerry Zaks Guys and Dolls revival and Scott Salmon who choreographed the original production of La Cage Aux Folles. I actually got to work with both of them: I worked with Chris when I danced in the Jerry Zaks revival of Guys and Dolls and Scott I worked with on the Radio City Christmas Spectacular which was my first job here in NYC. Working with them really influenced my career. Chris was a really fantastic storyteller through dance, and Scott was an incredible showman.

What does it mean to you to receive a Tony Award Nomination for Best Choreography for '"Newsies"?

It's hard to even put into words what it means to me. I was a big fan of the movie when I was younger, so to be working on the stage version now is truly exciting, and to be recognized for my work on the show is the icing on the cake.

What has been the best part about working on "Newsies"?

One is the outstanding collaboration with the team: Harvey Fierstein, Alan Menken, Jack Feldman, and Jeff Calhoun. Plus the support from Disney Theatricals, mainly Thomas Schumacher, was incredibly encouraging. It was truly so easy and everybody was doing it purely out of the love of the piece, and we kept pushing everyone to do their best.

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The second best part about this show has been working with the boys themselves. The dancers were so humble and their outstanding talents inspired me 24-hours a day. I couldn't stop thinking about them and how I could bring out their best and utilize their strengths, without making it look show-offy. I really tried to make all of the movement true to the story and mine as much of their talent as I could while staying in our world. For me, the dance in the show, aside from pushing the story forward, is also a metaphor to the story the boys are telling. In the show, the newsboys were at an age where they wanted a seat at the adult table, and didn't mind how hard they had to work to get it. And in our show, you actually see that happen in real time. The dancers (actors) are bringing all of themselves to this show and pushing our craft forward with their artistry and talents. It's an incredible thing to see. Working with this group of boys was probably one of the highlights of my career so far!

"Newsies" Broadway Opening Night (credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Since this is your second time being nominated for a Tony Award, is the excitement still the same? Do you feel you have had more opportunities since receiving these nominations?

It's even more exciting this time for me. The first time I was nominated, there wasn't as much dancing in South Pacific, so when I got the nomination for it, I was so taken by surprise, but was very flattered that they appreciated my contribution. I was so happy and loved being part of the nominations and the whole ride.

For Newsies, the fact that dance was such a huge element in the show, I had everything crossed that I was going to be recognized. This was my first big dance show, and the first time I was getting to really tell story through just dance, in a style that I felt was right for the show we were putting together. I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled, that the Tony committee did recognize the show and me.

What are you looking forward to most about Tony Award Night?

It will be the boys getting to do their dance number on the broadcast. When I was young, the Tony Awards was your only entry into the world of theatre when you don't live in or near NYC to come in a lot to see a show. I would watch the Tony Awards and see all the numbers, the celebrities, and the stars and everyone who puts the show together, and it inspired me so much. I remember thinking to myself, "I would love to do that someday." To know that I'm here now doing it and that one of my numbers is going to be on the show and hopefully inspire other people, or excite people to come to the theatre, means the world to me.

Visit the Tony Awards section at CBS Local.

Adam Rothenberg is the founder and writer for Call Me Adam, the entertainment site for interviews with rising and award-winning artists and performers of stage, film, music, television, and literature. He asks the heartfelt and fun questions you want answered.

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