The signature battement in West Side Story, the flight of Peter Pan, the three sailors in On the Town. “All of these images only hold significance to musical theatre lovers,” says actor Drew Redington. “But ask anyone in the ‘muggle’ world and they will know these iconic Broadway silhouettes as well.”
Redington is a long-time veteran of The Muny in St. Louis, where he has performed in Oklahoma!, Hairspray, 42nd Street and Hello, Dolly! among others. Having made his Broadway debut in Holiday Inn last season, he will be returning to the Great White Way in The Prom this fall. But beforehand, he returns to The Muny this summer to join the just-announced cast of Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.
In less than two weeks, The Muny will stage the first professional production of Jerome Robbins’ Broadway in nearly 30 years. Last week, the full cast of 50 performers was revealed. Among the company are many Muny veterans who have performed in Broadway ensembles, including Peter Chursin (On The Town), Leeds Hill (Cabaret) and Chris Lingner (On The Town). However, the cast also features numerous Broadway ensemblists making their Muny debuts, such as Tanairi Vazquez (Hamilton), Hillary Porter (A Bronx Tale The Musical) and Robin Masella (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
These scores of actors will perform some of Robbins’ most iconic dance suites from On The Town, Billion Dollar Baby, West Side Story, The King and I, Peter Pan, High Button Shoes, Call Me Madam and Fiddler On The Roof.
“It's difficult to pinpoint Robbins' style since his pieces span cultures and generations,” notes Darien Crago, a member of the Jerome Robbins’ Broadway ensemble. “However, you can always find unity in his use of rhythm and playfulness with music.” “Robbins’ musicality is incomparable,” says Sarah Marie Jenkins, who will play Peter Pan in The Muny’s production. “His movement really, truly makes you feel like you are making the music, not just dancing to it.”
‘What makes Robbins so iconic is his creation of characters through dance,” says Redington. “In all of his pieces, not only do you see dancers excel with profound technique, but you also witness actors portraying fully developed characters and human beings. Robbins' creations are so detailed, the characters he helped create have connected with the human race on a level sincere and honest enough to withstand the test of time.”
"His work is iconic because it simply and effectively stirs your emotions,” says Crago. “Whether it's feeling anxious and restless during "Cool" in West Side Story, silly and stubborn like the 'Moderns' in Million Dollar Baby, or sheer joy as Peter Pan is flying, Jerome Robbins helped shape the idea that dance should imitate life and influence our state of mind.”
These iconic moments of musical theatre will be brought together by director and choreographer Cynthia Onrubia, who assisted Robbins on the original Broadway production of the show. “I'm super excited to learn from Cynthia Onrubia,” says Jenkins, who is making her Muny debut in the show. “Being able to absorb as much information as possible from the person who helped Jerome Robbins create this show is beyond!”
Onrubia will be joined by recent Chita Rivera Award nominee Chris Bailey as production supervisor and a legion of additional choreographers including Dan Knechtges, Ralph Perkins and Harrison Beal.
“It feels a bit like we're opening a time capsule, getting to revisit these beloved numbers that span musical theater history,” notes Crago. “Even after the audition, I felt like I had a master class with Onrubia and Bailey. The creative team the Muny has assembled and brought together is top-notch.”
Much of that creative team with be putting up rarely-staged choreography, from Robbins’ “Charleston” from Billion Dollar Baby to “On a Sunday By The Sea” from High Button Shoes. “I'm most looking forward to tackling pieces of Robbins' that most people didn't even know existed,” notes Redington. “I myself was unaware of some pieces until I read the script.”
No matter the roles they will play and the choreography they will learn, each member of The Muny’s production seems to be treasuring being cast in the show. “What's awesome is every person involved is just as excited as the next,” says Jenkins. “It feels like we were all picked to attend the coolest summer camp where the activities are singing and dancing our faces off, then jumping in a collective ice bath.”
“To be a part of this wonderful ensemble makes me grateful and proud as a performer,” admits Redington. “It's a wonderful piece of musical theatre history we get to bring back to life for just a week, making it even more special.”
“Just a dream to be part of this ensemble -- in a review-style show that celebrates some of Robbins' most loved Broadway work,” says Crago. Jenkins agrees that performing the show feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: “There is something about presenting Jerome Robbins’ Broadway to an audience for the first time in 30 years that makes it different from a regular summer stock show. I feel like I won the lottery.”