YOUNG MEN portraying a rough-and-tumble bunch of newsboys need some rough-and-tumble dance moves, choreographer Christopher Gattelli says.
Gattelli, 43, won a Tony Award for his choreography in "Newsies," the 2010 musical that caused a sensation on Broadway, running for two and a half years when it was originally scheduled to end after 12 weeks. The touring production of the show comes to Omaha's Orpheum Theater for six days next week, opening Tuesday.
"Newsies" is based on David Nasaw's book "Children of the City," which tells the story of Kid Blink, a charismatic newsboy who led orphan and runaway newsies in a New York City strike against powerful publishers such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The walkout lasted for two weeks until the publishers agreed to a deal. A film version of the musical was released in 1992.
Harvey Fierstein wrote the book for the Broadway version. He believes every good musical needs a great love story, so he added a love interest for the leading man.
Alan Menken and Jack Feldman wrote the score for the stage show, adding six new songs.
The touring version of the musical has been on the road for about a year, and Gattelli choreographed it as well. He said he has tailored his work on "Newsies" to each group of men he has worked with.
"When people see the tour, they're seeing a really fresh first production," he said in a phone interview from his New York City home. "It was a really beautiful collaboration."
To create the athletic choreography, he said, "I tried to capture the boys' youth and energy to help drive the story forward."
That means lots of gymnastics and raw physicality that showcases their individual talents, he said.
When he auditioned dancers for the show, he looked for people with an abundance of strength and technique. They had to be multi-talented, he said — actors who could dance, sing and do specialty moves. Each performance features 31 backflips and numerous spins, leaps and tap steps.
He rehearsed the touring cast in New York and sent them on the road with his associate, checking in occasionally to give them refreshers or to help newbies.
The whole "Newsies" experience was fantastic, said Gattelli, whose current project is "The SpongeBob Musical." He said he was truly surprised when he won the Tony for his work.
"The process of putting up the show was so fantastic, especially with that group of guys. It really meant a lot that (the Tony) was for that — it felt like it was for all of us because of how it came together. It was really special."