HomeDanceSusan Stroman's New York, New York Musical Goes to Broadway

Susan Stroman’s New York, New York Musical Goes to Broadway

Martin Scorsese’s 1977 film musical, New York, New York, was an occasion, however probably not successful. These sufficiently old to recollect it in any respect recall the testy romance between the characters performed by Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli, the blatantly phony New York units, and, after all, the title tune by John Kander and Fred Ebb, which through the years has turn out to be the town’s unofficial anthem. The dances by Ron Subject, the Tony-winning choreographer of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, are all however forgotten. With Susan Stroman in control of the brand new stage musical New York, New York,­ opening April 26 on the St. James Theatre, the dancing can be entrance and heart. Like Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse earlier than her, she’s a director-choreographer who ought to actually be known as a choreographer-director. On this present, she will get the leads and different residents of the town that doesn’t sleep dancing in its streets, nightclubs and ballrooms; in Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, Central Park and on an I-beam at a building web site. “We make New York Metropolis undoubtedly a personality within the present,” says Stroman. 

“When you have got an concept for a brand new musical,” she says, “it often comes from somebody handing you a novel or a screenplay. Or you’ll be able to actually have a imaginative and prescient—of a lady in a yellow costume or one thing.” New York, New York arrived in a much less predictable method, as Stroman, 68, and her longtime pals and collaborators, composer John Kander and author David Thompson, have been making an attempt to give you one other undertaking to do collectively. Though her 5 Tony Awards—Loopy for You, Present Boat, Contact and The Producers (2!)have been for work with different artistic groups, her historical past with Kander and Fred Ebb started in 1977, when she performed Hunyak within the touring firm of Chicago. Her first Broadway credit score with Thompson was 1997’s Metal Pier, with music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb. All three (and Ebb, who died in 2004) earned Tony nominations for The Scottsboro Boys, the daring and good 2010 musical in regards to the infamous railroading of 9 younger African Individuals falsely accused of rape in Alabama in 1931, after which the trio went again off-Broadway, respiratory audacious theatrical life into Henry James’ novella The Beast within the Jungle (2018). Which brings us to New York, New York.

Transferring Past the Film

“We thought if we might get the rights to the film,” Stroman says, “and permission to do a brand new story, we’d have the ability to use the songs to inform a narrative that may be extra palatable for a recent viewers.” MGM mentioned sure, and so did producer Sonia Friedman once they introduced the thought. In order that they determined to make a brand new New York, New York, emphasis on the phrase “new.” They augmented the artistic crew, enlisting Kander’s buddy Lin-Manuel Miranda so as to add lyrics for most of the 13 new songs and Stroman’s good friend Sharon Washington, who was in Scottsboro Boys and can also be a author, to work on the guide with Thompson. They began in March 2021, and the end result, Stroman says, is “prompt” by the movie and “impressed” by Ebb’s lyrics to the title music: “If I could make it there, I’ll make it wherever.”

Susan Stroman smiles at something off camera as, to her left, John Kander, Sharon Washington and David Thompson sit gathered around a music stand at the front of a rehearsal studio.
New York, New York’s artistic crew contains Stroman, John Kander, Sharon Washington and David Thompson. Picture by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Polk & Co.

Just like the film, the present facilities on the connection between an aspiring singer and an bold musician who come to the town within the heady, exuberant second after World Battle II. However the brand new couple is interracial (Colton Ryan as Jimmy and Anna Uzele as Francine), and their story intersects with these of freshly invented characters—two Cuban immigrants, a Polish refugee, an English theater producer, an African American simply again from the conflict, a violin trainer and the know-it-all native New Yorker who’s Jimmy’s greatest good friend. And no one leaves the town. “The film came about in L.A. and down South,” Stroman factors out. “It wasn’t actually in New York a lot.” 

For the Broadway rendition, New York is the entire level. “It’s the story of individuals coming from in every single place to do one thing they couldn’t do wherever else,” Stroman says. “Folks come to New York to vary their lives”—as she had when she left Delaware, and as Kander (Missouri) and Thompson (Illinois) had as properly. In 2023 New York, she sees echoes of the story’s submit–World Battle II timeframe: “Folks have been hopeful, and so they have been additionally pulling plywood off of storefronts and giving smallpox vaccinations,” she explains. “After what we’ve all been by way of with the pandemic, it’s as if New York wants this present—to point out how resilient the town is, to point out that we will come again. We’ve the worst snowstorms, we have now the worst plagues, we have now the worst terrorist assaults. However we at all times come again.”

The Inventive Course of

A 3-week workshop at the beginning of 2022 went so properly that solely a 12 months later, Stroman was beginning rehearsals, posing her signature opening query to the assembled forged: “What’s higher than placing on a Broadway present?” Per week later, once I ask how issues are going, she exclaims, “Superb! I’m fortunate to have many stunning dancers to work with.” However luck has nothing to do with it. From Akina Kitazawa, a swing taking her first Broadway bow, to Clyde Alves, a Broadway veteran who debuted in Stroman’s Music Man in 2000 and labored for her once more in Oklahoma! and Bullets Over Broadway, the dancers (see “Meet the Dancers” under) are there as a result of she is. The present resonates, too, after all—a lot of the forged, like a lot of the Broadway group, got here to New York from elsewhere. Kitazawa says she fell in love with Stroman as a lady in Japan, watching a video of Loopy for You; Alves says that he’s by no means skilled a extra disciplined, skilled rehearsal room, or Stroman’s method of balancing thorough preparation with spontaneity. “It creates a extremely stunning platform so that you can soar off of,” he says.

Susan Stroman laughs as she sits at the front of a studio, a music stand with an open score or script in front of her. Her blonde hair falls neatly to her shoulders; she wears all black.
Susan Stroman. Picture by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Polk & Co.

Chita Rivera Award–winner Ashley Blair Fitzgerald (The Cher Present) hasn’t labored with Stroman earlier than and was shocked to search out her already contemplating the timing of costume modifications throughout pre-production. “I’ve by no means seen a director-choreographer go that far into element and have that a lot respect for his or her actors and dancers onstage. They get to it will definitely, in tech, however they don’t give it some thought seven weeks earlier than setting foot within the theater!” And she or he echoes Alves’ admiration for Stroman’s­ mixture of effectivity and openness. “She doesn’t waste a second of your time—each second is fastidiously thought out,” she notes. “Even when a curveball is available in, she’s allowed time for curveballs. She offers performers the power to deliver themselves to the room, versus feeling like they’ve to suit right into a cookie-cutter world.” 

Making New York Dance

Cookie cutters aren’t Stroman’s fashion—that is the artist who choreographed the lighthearted Huge and conceived, directed and choreographed the darkish and troublesome Thou Shalt Not, who went from Younger Frankenstein to The Scottsboro Boys. For those who ask what she appears to be like for in auditions, she replies, fairly logically, “Each present is completely different.” However she does admit to favoring “the dancers who’re capable of act.” For New York, New York, she gave a mix after which informed the dancers, “These are pedestrians in New York—I have to see the way you stroll down a road in New York Metropolis.” Some selected to be humorous, others tried to look busy or irritated—it didn’t matter, she says, so long as they took an opportunity and danced in character.

Clyde Alves, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald and Akina Kitazawa sing together as they pose against a white backdrop. Alves is in a deep lunge, jazz hands extended long by his hips. Fitzgerald balances in passé while resting one elbow on his shoulder, her other arm draped over her head. Kitazawa sits at their feet in profile, one leg extended long and the other knee pulled to her chest, arms curling in toward her face. All wear simple but varied all-black outfits that wouldn't be out of place in a jazz class.
New York, New York forged members Clyde Alves, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald and Akina Kitazawa. Picture by Jayme Thornton.

And a cookie-cutter strategy wouldn’t work for this present anyway, given the range of its characters. “There are huge quantities of assorted types of choreography,” Stroman says, “as a result of our metropolis is diverse, with many several types of folks.” Anticipate salsa, ballet, jazz, “and good outdated musical-comedy character dancing,” she says—in addition to tap-dancing building staff, who mirror the city soundscape—“the sound of metallic, every thing that goes on with constructing building.” The ballet strikes are for Fitzgerald and former New York Metropolis Ballet principal Stephen Hanna, who play newlyweds having “lyrical romantic moments within the midst of the chaos of New York.”

Amid the chaos and the lyricism, there may even be the indelible, eye-popping dance sequences Stroman is understood for. “I attempt to create some form of picture that individuals will bear in mind even when they don’t bear in mind the present,” she says. “They’ll bear in mind ladies as basses”—from Loopy for You, which she revives this July in London—“they’ll bear in mind little outdated girls with walkers”—The Producers—“they’ll bear in mind the woman within the yellow costume”—Contact. She received’t elaborate, however she guarantees “a few moments which have by no means been seen earlier than” in New York, New York. After which there’s that music, which closed the film after which closed dozens of Liza Minnelli concert events, dozens of Frank Sinatra appearances, and nonetheless closes each Yankees house sport. No have to ask the place it lands within the present.

Meet the Dancers

Clyde Alves, Forged as Tommy Caggiano

Clyde Alves, a middle-aged white man, poses against a white backdrop. He is in a forced arch parallel passé facing the camera; his body twists off kilter, away from his working leg, his arms working in opposition. His grin at the camera is infectious. He wears a black t-shirt, jazz pants, and jazz shoes.
Clyde Alves. Picture by Jayme Thornton.

Nearly 25 years within the enterprise, and he’d by no means gotten a present with out auditioning. However Clyde Alves (rhymes with “calves”) picked up the cellphone, and Susan Stroman was telling him that she’d gotten the rights for a musical primarily based on the movie New York, New York, and that there was a colourful, street-smart character in it named Tommy Caggiano, and what did he suppose? After three Broadway outings with Stroman, they’ve “fairly a working dialogue with one another,” he says. He informed her, “Whaddya imply whaddoI suppose? I’ll do it.”  

With no audition stress, he discovered himself workshopping the present final 12 months, and formally forged as Caggiano. The primary read-through with the Broadway forged, a few of whom hadn’t accomplished the workshop, was “mind-blowing,” he says, the brand new actors opening new home windows on the piece. 

It wasn’t Alves’ first light-bulb second. His future hit him like a lightning bolt, he says, when, at age 7, he wandered into his basement in Brampton, Ontario­, and noticed Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines on TV dancing in White Nights. “I’d by no means seen that earlier than, males doing one thing equal components athletic and creative,” he says. He went upstairs to announce that he wished to take dance classes, like his youthful sister. When his mom informed him she’d signed him up for faucet and jazz, he mentioned “What about ballet?” and began crying. By 10 he was commuting to Toronto for sophistication at Canada’s Nationwide Ballet Faculty. However he wasn’t there lengthy earlier than the college requested him to give up taking faucet and jazz to decide to ballet, and he was in the end launched from this system because of his different after-school actions. At 16 he was commuting once more, this time to carry out within the ensemble of the 1996 Toronto manufacturing of Magnificence and the Beast

Alves’ days of studying ensemble tracks are long gone, and he feels a bit sheepish about how rapidly the profession dominos fell into place for him. By 19, he says, “I might see that I wished to make it on Broadway, possibly in 5 or 10 years.” As an alternative,­ he lucked into an audition in New York Metropolis when Stroman was casting her 2000 Music Man, and Alves made his Broadway debut at 20, because the teenaged Tommy Djilas. Gravity-defying younger males turned his specialty, culminating in his 2014 starring function in On the City. Tommy Caggiano has much more mileage on him than these guys, he says, and “he’s acquired his head on straight.” 

The character’s maturity and steadiness resonate with Alves, who’s married to Broadway standout Robyn Hurder, presently performing in A Lovely Noise. It’s the primary time in years that they’ve been on Broadway concurrently—they’d been alternating in order that one might be house with their son, Hudson, now 9. New York, New York takes its characters by way of 12 months of a 12 months, as their lives and the  seasons change. “There are such a lot of themes on this present which might be chatting with me,” he says.

Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Ensemble

Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, a young white woman, poses against a white backdrop. She gazes at the camera upside down, long legs in plié as she arches into a backbend with one arm reaching to the sky. Her blonde hair nearly reaches her back heel. She wears a white button-down tied at the waist, sleeves rolled up, over a skintight black unitard and black lace-up jazz boots.
Ashley Blair Fitzgerald. Picture by Jayme Thornton.

When she first heard about Susan Stroman’s New York, New York, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald declined to audition. “I can’t faucet like Stro desires somebody to faucet,” she supposed. However unbeknownst to her, the director-choreographer had caught Fitzgerald’s Chita Rivera Award–profitable flip as The Darkish Girl in The Cher Present and wished to work along with her. Brief story shorter, Fitzgerald didn’t simply be part of the forged; she set to work with Stroman for 2 weeks of pre-production.

The crash course in Stroman’s fashion gave her “some intimate time along with her, to see how she works, what she likes, what she doesn’t like,” says Fitzgerald. “When you get within the huge room, it’s a special scope.” When a step gave her a little bit of  hassle, the vibe was “We’ll get there, we’ll determine it out.” 

Fitzgerald began figuring it out in Columbia, Maryland, learning with Shannon Torres at Ballet Royale Academy, which had funneled dancers into American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Dance Theatre of Harlem. However her coronary heart was set on Broadway—her idols have been Ann Reinking and Ann-Margret, and she or he spent six summers at Reinking’s Broadway Theatre Challenge, working with Reinking and Gwen Verdon and “everyone underneath the solar.” She did one semester as a dance main on the Boston Conservatory, however after workshopping what in the end turned the 2003 Burt Bacharach–Hal David revue The Look of Love (with Reinking) and getting an invite to hitch the tour of Fosse, her faculty days have been over. By age 19, she’d gone professional, doing Broadway excursions, off-Broadway reveals, regional theater and Radio Metropolis’s Christmas Spectacular

She lastly carried out in a Broadway opening evening at 30, when Joshua Bergasse, who’d used her within the TV collection “Smash,” employed her for Gigi. However the years she spent touring the choreography of Twyla Tharp, Andy Blankenbuehler, Jerry Mitchell and others, and dealing in New York with the Verdon Fosse Legacy, deepened her artistry, she says. Fosse’s work, particularly, feeds her soul: “Each time I dance it,” she says, “I uncover a brand new story I haven’t informed but, that I didn’t know I needed to inform. I uncover who I’m and who I could be.” In New York, New York, she and her dancing associate (and longtime good friend), former New York Metropolis Ballet principal Stephen Hanna, play Utah newlyweds discovering New York Metropolis, and she or he says Stroman’s rapturous ballet, swing and soft-shoe strikes make them “the pure heartbeat of the present.” 

Regardless of her bustling profession and busy house life—she’s the mom of 5-year-old Eden and 2-year-old Rowen—she’s nonetheless a category hound. “I’m at Steps on Broadway 5 days every week,” she says, “taking ballet or jazz or no matter. Something.” And she or he doesn’t point out faucet.

Akina Kitazawa, Dance captain and swing

New York, New York cast member Akina Kitazawa, a young Japanese woman, poses on a white backdrop. She balances in forced arch, downstage leg in parallel passé. Her soft arms frame her brightly smiling face. She wears a fitted black crop top and leggings, a pale pastel cardigan the flares behind her, and skin tone heeled jazz shoes. Her caramel brown hair falls in waves just past her shoulders.
Akina Kitazawa. Picture by Jayme Thornton.

In 2014, after Akina Kitazawa’s flight from Tokyo landed at JFK airport and she or he’d dropped off her baggage the place she’d be residing throughout the Ailey Summer season Intensive, she went on to Occasions Sq.. She appeared round with pleasure and awe on the throngs and lights and site visitors, pondering, That is it!

That flood of emotion overwhelmed her once more as she learn the opening quantity in New York, New York’s script, with its newcomers to the town picturing everybody within the crowd cheering for them in some imagined future. “I virtually cried,” she says. “It’s about me!” And the longer term she imagined 9 years in the past is now upon her: She’s a swing and dance captain on a Broadway present directed and choreographed by her idol, Susan Stroman. With a lot to be taught, she feels her head “is about to blow up.” 

“I’m the luckiest woman on the planet,” she says. “It’s actually arduous to outlive on this enterprise, and, someway, right here I’m.” It wasn’t all luck, after all—Stroman says her dancing is  “extraordinary.” Nonetheless, expertise is barely a part of the equation for non-U.S. residents who wish to work stateside. Again in 2018, Kitazawa booked an ensemble function in The Phantom of the Opera, however the job didn’t meet the strict requirements set by Actors’ Fairness for immigrants (it helps to be a star), and she or he wasn’t allowed to hitch the union. However rule modifications made throughout the pandemic allowed her to hitch for New York, New York with no downside

When Kitazawa got here to New York Metropolis for the Ailey intensive, she was 21 and hadn’t been capable of finding a distinct segment for her dancing in Japan, the place she’d began out as a aggressive ballet dancer. She discovered her area of interest that summer season, not at Ailey however on weekends, which she spent taking lessons at Steps on Broadway. She wasn’t completely stunned—YouTube movies of Broadway musicals had been “the beginning of me getting occupied with New York,” she says. She returned house figuring out three months hadn’t been sufficient, and she or he moved to New York firstly of 2016 as a scholar within the Steps Worldwide Impartial Research Program. Juggling visas and union guidelines, she slowly constructed a resumé of regional musicals and non-Fairness gigs in New York. A kind of was one other dream come true: After making an attempt and failing to guide Radio Metropolis’s 2018 Christmas Spectacular present, she handed the grueling audition and danced on the legendary stage as much as 17 occasions every week throughout the 2022 season.    

With the continued pandemic, her mother and father weren’t capable of see her carry out, and she or he hasn’t been again to Japan to see them. Will they arrive to the opening evening of New York, New York? “They must,” she says. “It’s my Broadway debut!”



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