Christopher Gattelli took up dancing from the age of eight, doing “a little bit of everything”, but it was watching the original 1992 movie of Newsies, that inspired Gattelli to pursue dancing as a career.
“That movie made me want to dance. That movie made me say, ‘I want to do this for the rest of my life’, and I know it inspired a lot of others,” said Gattelli.
The progression from dancer to choreographer just naturally followed, inspired by his own creative teachers and choreographers.
“I was really inspired by them – and the way you can tell stories without using words, just through your body,” explained Gattelli.
It all paid off for Christopher Gattelli in 2012 when he won the highly coveted Tony Award for Best Choreography for the Broadway hit, Newsies.
While Newsies has achieved great success on Broadway, the musical has yet to reach our shores. The upcoming worldwide cinema screening of Newsies will give Australian musical theatre fans the opportunity to see it on the big screen, reaching a whole new audience.
“We’re thrilled over here!” exclaimed Gattelli.
Filmed live on stage, Disney’s Newsies is based on the true story of a group of newsboys in New York in the 1890’s.
Gattelli explained, “It’s the classic David and Goliath story about a bunch of young newsboys who just wanted a fair deal delivering their papers … and they had to rally together to prove their point. It’s really an inspiring story, especially in today’s times.”
Growing up as a dancer, who is now a Tony Award winning choreographer, I asked Gattelli which was harder: actually executing the steps as the dancer or coming up with them in the first place as the choreographer.
He replied, “Oh, that’s a really great question, no one has ever asked me that before! It’s different. Wow … they’re different. It’s hard to come up with choreography – you have to tell a story without words, so you have to get physically across what you’re trying to do and convey emotion through that. So you’re coming up with steps and you’re coming up with composition and you’re coming up with where to tell the audience which side to look and so many things.
“As a dancer, I’d say it’s easier to do the steps, but the hard part is actually the training to do the steps – so they’re both hard in their own way, because the training a dancer requires, especially when you watch the boys in Newsies, the dancing they have to do, that is some serious training that these boys have put in! … So wow, they’re both equally hard – one’s physical and the other is mental.”
It comes as no surprise that Gattelli won the Tony Award for Best Choreography for Newsies – the choreography is very impressive.
I asked Gattelli if he ever came up with steps he thought might be too difficult for his dancers to execute?
“What’s interesting about Newsies is I was very similar to those boys when I grew up. I was very limber and I could jump and turn and I could do a lot of that stuff,” Gattelli laughed, adding, “Not to the extent they’re doing now, but in some sense I kind of had an idea of what I thought they could do eight times a week!”
“The movie’s one thing but to perform it eight times a week and sustain that is really hard,” admitted Gattelli.
Gattelli explained there was considerable collaboration between him and his dancers during the choreography process, “I would have many conversations along the way with the boys and say, ‘Look I loved it, you look great doing this and it’s very impressive, but if it ever starts to hurt or if it’s ever too difficult to maintain … so the boys were always great in that collaboration, because they were always upfront and honest.”
With the increased profile of dancing amongst the general public through television shows such as So You Can Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars, Gattelli feels audiences are much more appreciative of the complexity of the dancing.
He compares it to when he was a boy and started dancing, “It’s interesting watching it turn from when I was young to now. It’s definitely much cooler and lot more accepted, which is incredible.”
Newsies is a musical for people of all ages, but Gattelli hopes his choreography will inspire a new generation of dancers, in the same way the original movie inspired him all those years ago.
The live filmed screening of the Broadway musical Newsies will take place this Sunday February 19th in selected cinemas around the country.
For more information and to find a cinema near you go to: http://www.newsiesthemusical.com/