Theater People: Jerry Mitchell

Patrick brings us another amazing episode this week starring Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell! The man who choreographed Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can, directed and choreographed Legally Blonde and Kinky Boots, and started Broadway Bares which has raised over $12 million dollars for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids (BCEFA).  Is there anything he can’t do? (The answer is no.)

Jerry Mitchell tells the fantastic story of how Kinky Boots came be exist in its current form.  Harvey Fierstein writing the book, Cyndi Lauper writing the music, the casting, and of course Jerry directing and choreographing.  What does he look for when casting? He looks, first and foremost, to look at the person who’s right for the part.  He does also tend to draw in people who look at the glass as half full and theatre is all about collaboration so that’s an important aspect of casting as well. He goes on to discuss the technical process of the show in both Chicago and Broadway, the biggest changes that the show underwent from Chicago to Broadway and his Tony win.

Taking it back to the beginning, Jerry discusses touring with A Chorus Line, being an ensemble member in Brigadoon, getting a part in Woman of the Year with Lauren Bacall, doing the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas movie, being in Barnum and On Your Toes, and the incredible and dynamic story of becoming the assistant to the choreographer for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.  He discusses in detail how he got into choreography and dance in general.

The mentor-ship of Micheal Bennett, Jerome Robbins, and Jack O’Brien is a great story, and particularly interesting throughout the story is how they shaped him as a director and choreographer.

Patrick leads a comparison of Hairspray and Catch Me If You Can and specifically the process that went into choreographing them. And everyone wants a finale like “You Can’t Stop the Beat” which can be paired with amazing choreography, but only if someone writes it.  Legally Blonde was a different journey and his directorial debut. It was his first time out as a director, but he was supported by the four lead producers who helped him prosper as a director and make his own directorial choices.  He also discusses the importance of the show in terms of what it teaches young girls.

He tells the story of how Broadway Bares, a great show for an even better cause, came to be. Creating the event also served as calling card for his career.  He encourages other choreographers who want to get involved in the community to do something from their heart because who knows how it could pay off for them.

For anyone who loves theater, this episode is a must listen!

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