Interview with Jerry Mitchell and Harvey Fierstein of "Hairspray Live! on NBC - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite
 

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By Suzanne

Harvey Fierstein and choreographer Jerry Mitchell 

Interview with star Harvey Fierstein and choreographer Jerry Mitchell of "Hairspray Live! on NBC 11/21/16

NBC UNIVERSAL
Moderator: Joey Levine
November 21, 2016 2:00 pm CT

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Hairspray Live Creative Corner conference call press and media.

During the presentation all participants will be in a listen only mode. Shortly afterwards we will conduct a question and answer session. At that time if you have a question press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone. If at any time during the conference you need to speak an Operator press star 0.

As a reminder this conference is being recorded Monday, November 21, 2016. I will now turn the conference over to Joey Levine, Press Manager.

Joey Levine: Hi everyone. And thank you for joining today’s call for Hairspray Live. We’re continuing our Creative Corner Series of conversations. And we’re happy to welcome choreographer Jerry Mitchell and Harvey Fierstein who not only stars as an Edna Turnblad but also wrote the teleplay for Hairspray Live.

So as soon as you guys are ready we can start our Q&A session. After your question feel free to register for an additional question by dialing into the queue.

We’ll get started now. Thank you.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen if you would like to register a question press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone. You will hear a three tone prompt to acknowledge your request. If your question has been answered and you would like to withdraw your registration press the 1 followed by the 3. Once again for a question it’s 1, 4.

And our first question comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.

Jerry Mitchell: Good afternoon.

Suzanne Lanoue: Hi. Let’s see. My first question is for Jerry. I was wondering in order to do choreography for this play for television was there anything special that you learned in figuring it out?

Jerry Mitchell: Well I’ve worked in film and television before so there’s nothing special. I actually came to the project with my choreography from the original Broadway production which I used as my base to get started. But the great thing and the thing that makes a difference is you’re working with a 360 degree angle. You’re not in a proscenium like a theater.

So it’s a little bit more like doing theater in the round. But it’s been really exciting and we’re getting some amazing footage. So I’m really excited about what’s going to happen.

Suzanne Lanoue: Great, can’t wait. And Harvey what were your main goals in figuring out how to make Hairspray from – updating it the way you did for the play itself?

Harvey Fierstein: Well it’s not so much a matter of updating because as you know the play takes place in 1962. The story takes place in ’62 so we’re not updating in that way. What my concern was having performed this show 1000 times I know what this show does to an audience. That live audience goes insane.

And when they leave the theater they are so high and so happy, so joyous about life. I was – my big concern was how do we translate to the home where somebody’s watching it at home and they get that excited and that happy?

So that really was my concern is how do we tell the story in the more intimate, you know - because after all you’re watching it at home, you could be in your underwear or whatever. Television is a very intimate medium. So how do we reach you, tell that story, be true to the story but still get you excited about life and present that?

And of course that has a lot to do with the performances. I stuck as closely as I could to the original Broadway. I did make some adjustments to – for - you know, so that the story really lived on that smaller box. But basically I wanted to try and get you excited and happy about life.

Suzanne Lanoue: All right. Well I hope you succeed. And I’ll look forward to it.

Harvey Fierstein: I hope you enjoy it.

Suzanne Lanoue: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Stephanie Piché with Mingle Media TV. Please go ahead.

Stephanie Piché: Thank you. Hi Harvey and Jerry. It’s a pleasure to talk to you both. Thank you for taking time today. So excited to see this because it’s one of my favorites of all times.

My question for Harvey, can you tell me what you’re seeing in the new cast members that are coming especially newcomer Maddie who plays Tracy? What do you have to say about the new cast members you’re working with?

Harvey Fierstein: Well, you know, the wonderful part about theater is it’s always alive. You know a movie, you make a movie, it’s done, it’s finished. Three hundred years from now it’s exactly the same as it was the day you make it. Theater is a living thing and every day changes and that’s the way this is with Hairspray Live.

So having a new Tracy obviously it’s all new blood. I’m so excited for you to see her. Maddie Baillio is, I think, a true star. She has a voice that is just wonderful. It’s poppy, it’s exciting, it’s real. She has a spirit that is indomitable. She moves and attacks Jerry’s beautiful choreography with such gusto. She just dives in.

We’ve been working together for six weeks now. I have never once heard her complain about anything. And trust me we’re working her hard and she is in there. She’s excited about life. She’s excited to do this. She wants to do it. And it’s wonderful. You know it’s given me a whole new light to have this terrific new young star.

And then the other people Ariana has always loved Hairspray kind of like you have. She and has been dying to play this role so she gets to do it. Jennifer I’ve known for a couple years and we’ve had Kristin Chenoweth and I go back, I don’t want to say how many decades.

So, you know, so you have all kinds of new friends and old friends, the kids give it - you know these kids give it all their energy.

And what Jerry has done if he doesn’t mind my tooting his whistle, he has taken the original choreography but it’s expanded. You know what he did was he created a language of dance that kids could invent themselves. That’s what was exciting about the dances of that period. Kids made up these dances themselves. You know what I mean? Any kid could do them. And Jerry’s taken that simplicity and then raised it to an art form. It’s very exciting.

Stephanie Piché: Wow I can’t wait. I wish it was tomorrow.

Harvey Fierstein: Well I’m ready. I’m ready. I’ve got my stuff ready.

Stephanie Piché: Okay. And Jerry how is it working with – I know you have expert dancers like Derek Hough. But how about with someone like Dove Cameron who doesn’t come with a lot of dance experience but a lot of raw talent, how is it working with…?

Jerry Mitchell: It’s like Harvey said that, you know, when I first approached the show and the story of the show I realized that it’s not really about professional dancers. It’s about young kids who want to dance on a teen TV show.

So I tried to keep the dancing simplistic. And Dove, you know, when she – when we cast Dove in the show she was actually doing a movie. But we met here in LA and we put a bunch of her stuff on video. So she took it up to Vancouver, I think she was filming. And she practiced every day. When she showed up on the set, sure enough she had all her steps down.

So, you know, we’ve done that with – even with Marty Short. He loves to tape the choreography then take it home and work on it.

So we’ve been giving them all their private tutoring sessions. But they’ve been working for really hard really for the past eight weeks with me. Three weeks Maddie started in New York with me for two solid weeks just of dance before she came out here and started to learn the score on this and the lines.

So we did like three weeks of pre-production dance. And it paid off, paid off big time.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Scott Katz with USTownhall.com. Please go ahead.

Scott Katz: Yes. Hi. Thanks to both of you for taking our call today.

My first question is for Harvey Fierstein. I just want to know just the backstory of how you came to be involved in this new production of Hairspray and also how you agreed to write the book for this musical. Did you feel any kind of trepidation for going back and redoing something you had done in the past in addition to that?

Harvey Fierstein: Okay. Yes. Well I’ll tell you. Last year I wrote The Wiz. You know I wrote the teleplay for The Wiz presentation last year and I worked with Kenny and had a wonderful time working with Kenny and, you know, and Craig.

And then they called me. And they said, “Would you mind writing the teleplay for Hairspray even if you’re not acting in it?”

And I said not at all because truthfully I’m one of the original writers. I’m uncredited but I’m actually one of the original writers of the show. I also wrote the adaptation that we did in Las Vegas. And I wrote the adaptation we did at the Hollywood Bowl.

So I’m - you know I’m pretty familiar with the show and then working with Jerry of course because Jerry and I had worked together in Las Vegas – you know not only Broadway but the Las Vegas and the Hollywood Bowl.

So, you know, I just – I felt very relaxed about that. So I had no problem at all stepping in as the writer of the teleplay.

Scott Katz: Okay. And for Jerry, sort of following up on the last question, because you have such a wide range of experience in terms of your actors and their dancing background, how do you approach each actor and kind of nurture them along when you see maybe one actor can take to choreography a lot more easily and then you have Derek Hough who did win awards for his own choreography on the other end of the scale? You know how do you kind of work with each actor? What’s your process for doing that?

Jerry Mitchell: Well just probably what you’re saying is I pay attention to each actor. And I look at their scale of ability and their – and how they operate. And I try to figure out how I can best serve them and when they’re ready for more and when they’re ready for less and when I need to push them and when I need to back off and let them live in it for a bit.

So I do have a lot of experience with dance and different kinds of actors in film, television and stage. So it’s basically, you know, working with the actor. And what can I do to help them be the best that they can be.

Derek has been sensational. He – and they’ve all been sensational. But, you know, and also educating them a little bit about the 60s and what movement was like in the 60s compared to what it is like today. So it’s been fun.

Scott Katz: Okay great. And then I know everybody has seen it said this is one of the best modern musicals and I wish you a whole lot of luck with it. And I hope it’s a big success for you guys.

Jerry Mitchell: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Caryn Robbins with Broadway World. Please go ahead.

Caryn Robbins: Hi. Thanks so much for doing this today. I know it was recently revealed that Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur are going to have cameos in the show which is so exciting.

Jerry Mitchell: I don’t know if I’m supposed to give away their cameos so I don’t want to say anything until I’ve been given the – they’re going to be appearing together in a sequence in the show.

Caryn Robbins: Okay. And I was wondering if you can maybe both briefly talk about how the message of the show is perhaps even more relevant than ever in light of recent events in the country.

Jerry Mitchell: Well, you know, the message of Hairspray, when we opened Hairspray on Broadway we – it had not had an African American serving as President of the United States. And that certainly was a big part of our journey. And that changed - and that made things different for all of us in a very positive way. And the show is certainly at the forefront of that experience.

But I think Hairspray is needed now more today with the recent turnout of our election than ever before because inclusion and everyone just dancing together is really what it boils down to in a very simple message. And it couldn’t be more needed today than it has ever been in the past.

Harvey Fierstein: As you just said it’s a funny thing. You know in the past few years we’ve watched the Supreme Court get rid some of the Voting Rights Act and we watched them get rid of quotas, you know, for some schools. And I said to myself maybe they know better than I do. I don’t think we’ve moved ahead that far. But maybe they’re smarter than I am. They are Supreme Court Justices. Maybe the world has moved on.

Well we just had an election where we found out very strongly and in no uncertain terms no we haven’t gotten that far. I don’t think that’s a terrible thing. I think it’s a good thing to know where you are for real. I think when you are kidding yourself you’re kidding yourself.

And I think America just got a wakeup call as to who we are and what our differences are. And we now know the work ahead of us. And Hairspray is a really good reminder that just a few years ago in our history we couldn’t even dance together.

I think we need to remember that and say, “Is that really what we want to go back to. Do we really want to go back to days where people lived in constant fear of touching each other, of talking to each other, of being together? Do we want a separated divided America or do we want an America that is stronger because we’re all together?”

Hairspray in its very gentle, fun, John Waters way carries that message. And I hope that people tune in and enjoy it.

Caryn Robbins: That’s beautifully said. And I agree 100%. Thanks so much.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of David Gordon with TheaterMania. Please go ahead.

David Gordon: Hi gentlemen. Thanks for doing this, looking forward to the show as always.

I’ve read that there will be a live audience for this one. And I’m just curious how it will be factored into the broadcast if you can give it away.

Jerry Mitchell: Oh well obviously the Corny Collins Show is a teen dance show so there’s an audience watching the show in the studio. That’s one way we’re going to use our live audience, their applause after the end of Good Morning Baltimore will transition us to the Corny Collins Studio where we immediately pick up with Nicest Kids in Town.

So they’ll be a part of the show. Then we’ll have audiences scattered throughout the back lot watching the performances. I’m not sure we’re ever going to break the fourth wall and say oh that’s a modern-day audience. But we are using the audience in the Corny Collins Show. And we go to the Corny Collins Show four times and of course we…

Harvey Fierstein: Yes and the big finale.

Jerry Mitchell: The big finale, yes. And we’ve got some surprises in there with the audience.

David Gordon: Cool. Harvey given that you are so familiar with Hairspray, the material, can you talk a little bit about your adaptation and whether this is going to be like a supersized version of Hairspray that will combine the show and the movie and the original movie and all of that?

Harvey Fierstein: Yes. No. My concern, you know, when we were writing the show in the first place we sort of digested the movie and decided, you know, John Waters’ movie and decided what we wanted from that movie and what we didn’t.

So that had – that decision had already been done. The move – the Hollywood movie really didn’t play very much into this because it changed the story and did things that I personally would never have done if, you know, if it was…

Jerry Mitchell: Basically we’ve stuck very, very close to the Broadway production. You know obviously you’re limited with time on television. And as opposed to stage where you could be a musical, be anything between two hours and three hours depending on what you want to deliver and how you want to deliver it.

So we’re following pretty much the actual shape of the Broadway musical. We have included the song Lady’s Choice. We’ve – we do not have a big dollhouse. I think that’s already been spoken about. But we do have Lady’s Choice and we have Come So Far which is our curtain call number.

And but otherwise we’re sticking close to the Broadway version.

David Gordon: How are you – can you talk about how you’re reimaging your choreography like You Can’t Stop the Beat and Good Morning Baltimore and all of the big production numbers?

Jerry Mitchell: Well Good Morning Baltimore takes place outside on the street and that’s Baltimore.

So, you know, I’ve had to reimagine it quite a bit. And but I think the people who are fans of the Broadway production will be extremely excited about the way the show starts and how I’ve taken the Broadway production and the Broadway idea and now made it work for television. I’m excited about it. We had a – we had some camera tests last week and it was just really thrilling to see it sort of come to life.

You Can’t Stop the Beat, when I created that dance for Broadway my goal was that everyone in the audience would feel like they can get up and do that step too. The steps for the finale, Tracy’s steps are exactly the same as they were on Broadway. The difference is we’ve got more people doing them in a bigger space with a lot more audience joining us. So it’ll be fun to see that You Can’t Stop the Beat grow and grow and grow. It’s hard to be bad when you got a song that’s that good.

David Gordon: So you didn’t – you guys didn’t stick very close to the movie remake but closer to the Broadway...

Harvey Fierstein: Right. The remake we didn’t. But I was – oh I was about to say that Derek Hough, because we had Derek Hough Jerry wanted to use a song that was in the movie called Ladies’ Choice because it’s more of a dance song. And it would allow Derek to really dance. So that was one thing that we did. You know that sort of avows to the new movie.

David Gordon: Would you do Edna again on Broadway if that opportunity arose?

Harvey Fierstein: It’s not my – it’s not really. You know they’re talking about a revival. And I never say never to anything. But my next project is a play at the Public Theater. That Martin Sherman wrote. And I’m really very excited about doing something new and different. And, you know, I love Edna. I owe such a debt of gratitude to her and so much to her. And I will always protect her and be there for her if she needs me.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Anne Easton with the New York Observer. Please go ahead.

Anne Easton: Hello gentlemen. These musicals have been so highly successful for NBC. Do you – does that put any kind of pressure on you? And if so how do you deal with that?

Jerry Mitchell: Well I don’t have time for pressure. This is Jerry talking. No time for pressure. I mean Hairspray is such a fantastic musical first and foremost that the opportunity to do it live and for television, all I’m thinking and concentrating on is getting it taught, getting it shot and getting everybody in the right place at the right time. And I think the rest will take care of itself. It’s too good a project to not come off in a great way.

Harvey Fierstein: Yes. We’re not in the marketing side of things. You know we basically do what we do and then it’s Joey’s job to get them to tune in.

But it’s (very exciting for) both Jerry and I to know that we’re part of bringing theater, you know, to - right into your home.

I mean when I was a kid and I’m much younger than Jerry by maybe 30 or 40 years. I remember watching that, you know, Peter Pan -- Mary Martin and Peter Pan -- and it was my favorite thing to look forward to whenever they would be broadcasted. I was just in absolute heaven. And I’m hoping that we’re doing the same by doing these. You never know.

You know it’s – you do every performance and you just hope that you’re changing lives out there and you kind of trust that you are. And that’s the way we approach this.

Anne Easton: Great answer. One of the big things that goes on, you know, during the broadcast is a lot of tweeting and people posting on social media. Will you look at any of that afterwards?

Harvey Fierstein: You know I was part of The Wiz. And I just – I didn’t. But people told me about it. There was a huge, huge swell of activity especially among African American viewers during The Wiz. And they were really tweeting about, you know, what a great time they were having and that was very exciting to me because then you really know you’re reaching people. But in a funny way I would like, like texting and driving, I’d really wish you’d just watch it.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Kristyn Burtt with Dance Network. Please go ahead.

Kristyn Burtt: Yes, thank you. My question is for Jerry. When you first did Hairspray on Broadway in 2002 I want to know the differences in the generations of dancers because they’re so cross-trained now in so many different styles. Do you feel like it’s helped the dance industry or do you think less of a classical training has hurt the dance industry?

Jerry Mitchell: Well it depends on the show you’re working on. I always say a ballet base is great for any dancer because it just helps you maintain your body no matter what you’re doing. I mean these kids here they’re dancing on a sound stage. And then have to run outside and dance on pavement for the next production number. They don’t have time to warmup between numbers.

And once the show starts it’s going full steam ahead. We’ve been starting every day here with a warmup just to get them used to warming themselves up for this event.

But, you know, I don’t think that – look I’m always for a ballet base. It helps. It helps you pick up different styles. The dance here, the thing that I’ve been trying to educate the kids about and even made them watch a documentary on the twist was, you know, just the styles and the different way people held their bodies and danced.

John Waters once said to me that, you know, this show takes place in 1962. And American – America was still innocent at that time. And people danced from the waist up. So it’s just a different style.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen as a reminder for a question it’s 1, 4 on your telephone.

Our next question comes from Scott Katz with USTownhall.com. Please go ahead.

Scott Katz: Yes. Hi. Thank you again. My question is for both of you. Can you just talk a little bit each of you, and we’ll start with Harvey, but a little bit about how your love of musical theater began?

And with this cast of young actors what advice would you give them in their careers going forward? And we’ll start with Harvey.

Harvey Fierstein: Well I was brought up in Brooklyn, New York. And I had a mother who loved art. We went to a museum. We went to a Broadway show. We went to a premier movie every weekend. Tickets back then for the balcony were $3. So she could buy tickets for the four us, my brother, my father, she and I for $12. We could take the subway into Manhattan and see a Broadway show.

So we saw everything. And I can actually go into the theaters, into the Broadway theaters and show you the seat I sat in to see Oliver, to see How To Succeed, to see Sound of Music, to see these Broadway shows that are now, you know, the classics that we think of as the Golden Age. I saw them all. So of course I love them.

But I was a painting student. And I got into theater really because I thought maybe I would do some set design or something. Everything else just sort of happened.

But I always loved theater and that – and was brought up in theater. And that’s the reason that I’m so in love with this idea of bringing theater into people’s homes.

Jerry Mitchell: Well I grew up in a very small town in the Midwest where there was one stoplight. And I started dancing and got involved in everything I could possibly get involved in from the age of 8 when I joined the Paw Paw Village Players to do The Music Man until I left town at 17 to be doing national tour of West Side Story.

But, you know, I think the thing that I would tell young people and I tell them often is that they have got to be passionate about being in this business. If they’re not passionate about it, it won’t show up on the screen. It won’t show up on stage. It won’t show up anywhere.

And there are too many people who are passionate so if you really want a career in this business you got to love it more than anything else. And really dedicate yourself to that on every level. And the only other piece of advice that I’d give them is learn to project.

And when Harvey does something on set Harvey does something 110%. And all of the young kids who do it and then they don’t – and then they mark the next time, they see Harvey leading by example. And so you have to step up to the plate. You have to step up to the plate.

Your performance, you know, can never be oh I’ll do it the next time. That isn’t the way it works, not in live theater. It’s every time full out all the time. And if you don’t have the energy for that then you really have to question are you in the right business because that’s what it takes.

Scott Katz: And is that true even in rehearsal that you should sort of do the rehearsal as if you’re doing the actual show?

Jerry Mitchell: Why not? Like you’re stretching your muscles…why wouldn’t you use everything you’ve got every time you’ve got a chance to use it.

Scott Katz: Well Jerry has it been difficult for you or challenging for you to sort of work around everybody else’s schedule because right now Derek just finished Dancing with the Stars? So have you had a lot of chance to work with him yet?

Jerry Mitchell: No, no. He finished actually a couple weeks ago. But we scheduled our schedule based on their schedules. So I’ve had tons of time with Derek. And Derek is amazing. Derek comes in and he is full out. He does it. He learns it quicker than anybody else. And then he gives it back to you.

And Derek has never once in all of our rehearsals said oh I don’t like that step can I try this, can I – he has been unbelievable, unbelievable. I mean really like super, super talent and a super sweet man. And I’m really excited to have this opportunity to work with him. All of the kids, all of the kids are great. They’re really great.

The one difference between film and television as opposed to theater is it’s quiet because the camera picks everything up. And on stage you can’t bring a stage – a stage performance needs more than a television and film performance. It needs projection. And that’s what I mean by I would teach them the difference between projecting for the stage and projecting for TV and film. They’re two different worlds.

Joey Levine: All right I apologize; unfortunately I’m afraid we’re out of time for today.

So I do want to thank you for your questions and for joining us and again apologies about the phone issues.

But as always a big thank you to Harvey and Jerry for their time during today’s busy production day. And please be sure to tune into Hairspray Live on December 7th. Thanks everyone. And have a great day.

Jerry Mitchell: Thanks everybody.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen that does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation.

Operator: Please disconnect your lines.

MORE INFORMATION:

Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “HAIRSPRAY LIVE!” is a bold new television production coming to NBC on Wednesday, Dec. 7 (8/7c).  In 1962 Baltimore, teenager Tracy Turnblad’s (newcomer Maddie Baillio) dreams come true when she earns a spot dancing on the “Corny Collins Show,” and uses her newfound fame to campaign for the integration of the all-white TV program.  “Hairspray Live!” also stars Dove Cameron, Kristin Chenoweth, Garrett Clayton, Harvey Fierstein, Ariana Grande, Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson, Ephraim Sykes and Shahadi Wright Joseph.  

Find the latest news on “Hairspray Live!” at http://www.nbc.com/hairspray-live

Actor and playwright HARVEY FIERSTEIN will reprise the Tony Award-winning role he created on Broadway as Edna Turnblad in "Hairspray Live!” Fierstein is the author of the revised book for the new smash hit production of “Funny Girl,” currently running in London, and wrote the teleplay for NBC’s broadcast of “The Wiz Live!,” which aired in 2015. An updated production of “The Wiz” will be heading to Broadway with his new book. He has also penned the Tony and Olivier Award-winning Best Musical “Kinky Boots” as well as the recent Broadway hits “Newsies” (Tony nomination), “Casa Valentina” (Tony nomination, Best Play), “Torch Song Trilogy” (Tony, Drama Desk and Obie Awards), “La Cage aux Folles” (Tony and Drama Desk Awards), “A Catered Affair” (12 Drama Desk nominations), “Safe Sex” (Ace Award), “Legs Diamond,” “Spookhouse,” “Flatbush Tosca,” “Common Ground” and more.  As an actor, Fierstein is known worldwide for his performances in films that include “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Independence Day” and “Bullets Over Broadway”; on stage in “Hairspray” (Tony Award), “Fiddler on the Roof,” “La Cage aux Folles” and Torch Song Trilogy (Tony Award); and on TV series such as “Smash,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Good Wife,” “Cheers” (Emmy nomination), “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “Nurse Jackie.” Fierstein’s political editorials have been published in The New York Times, TV Guide and the Huffington Post and broadcast on PBS’ “In the Life,” while his children’s book, “The Sissy Duckling” (Humanitas Award), is now in its fifth printing.

A two-time Emmy winner and eight-time nominee JERRY MITCHELL is choreographer and associate producer of “Hairspray Live!”  He is currently represented on Broadway as the director of the Gloria Estefan bio-musical “On Your Feet.” He earned his Tonys for the choreography of the 2013 Tony-winning Best Musical “Kinky Boots,” for which he was also nominated as director, and the 2005 revival of “La Cage Aux Folles.” He was recently nominated for an Olivier Award for his choreography in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” which he also directed and co-produced in the West End. In the 35 preceding years, Mitchell has been involved with more than 50 Broadway, Off-Broadway, West End and touring productions, starting as a dancer for Agnes De Mille in “Brigadoon” and thereafter assisting Michael Bennett and Jerome Robbins. His Broadway debut as choreographer on “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” was followed by “The Full Monty,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Hairspray,” “Gypsy,” “Never Gonna Dance,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Imaginary Friends,” “Legally Blonde,” which he also directed, “Catch Me If You Can” and “Kinky Boots.” He also choreographed both the Off-Broadway productions and films of “Hedwig & the Angry Inch” and “Jeffrey,” the national tour of “Jekyll & Hyde,” Paper Mill Playhouse’s critically acclaimed “Follies,” featuring Ann Miller, and “Love Never Dies,” Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to his “Phantom of the Opera” for the West End. He also supervised the Broadway production of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Mitchell’s film work includes “In and Out,” “Scent of a Woman,” “Jeffrey,” “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and “Camp.” For television, he choreographed several seasons of “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” was nominated for an Emmy for the choreography he created for “The Drew Carey Show,” was featured as the host of “Step It Up and Dance” and served as director and choreographer of “Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods” and “Ice Loves Coco.” Mitchell has also recently expanded his activities as a theater producer by forming a partnership with one of the most active and respected West End producers and theater owners, Ambassador Theatre Group, with the goal of developing musicals for the West End and Broadway stages. Twenty-seven years ago, Mitchell conceived and created “Broadway Bares,” a comedy burlesque show performed annually for the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. He continues to serve as executive producer of “Broadway Bares,” with a book, website and satellite productions in Fire Island Pines, N.Y., Las Vegas (“Peepshow,” which enjoyed a five-year run of continuous performances) and London (“West End Bares”). Most recently, Mitchell received the Drama League’s Founders’ Award for Excellence in Directing and the George Abbott Lifetime Achievement Award from his peers, the latter being especially meaningful to him in that he was directed by the 96-year-old Abbott in the Broadway revival of “On Your Toes.” A native of Paw Paw, Mich., Mitchell attended Webster Conservatory in St. Louis, from which he received an honorary doctorate.

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Page updated 12/7/16

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