BWW Interview: Ryan Steele Talks His Summer in Poughkeepsie with IN YOUR ARMS, Reuniting with Christopher Gattelli & More!
New York Stage and Film and Vassar College this summer is celebrating the 30th year of their Powerhouse Theater collaboration, running from June 20 to July 27 at Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, New York). The large-scale dance ensemble for In Your Arms (July 5-13) will feature Broadway favorites Ryan Steele (Newsies, Matilda, West Side Story), Tony Award winner Robert Morse (How to Succeed..., "Mad Men"), Carole Shelley (Billy Elliot) and Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte (Jerome Robbins' Broadway), among others.
This world premiere presentation will be directed and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, with original music by Stephen Flaherty and vignettes written by Douglas Carter Beane, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, Carrie Fisher,David Henry Hwang, Rajiv Joseph, Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage & Alfred Uhry.
Earlier this week, Steele (who has recently taken Broadway by storm, dancing his way through West Side Story, Newsies, and Matilda) took a break from rehearsals to chat with BroadwayWorld about the new production, reuniting with Christopher Gattelli, and so much more. Check out the full interview below!
How have rehearsals been going so far?
It's been going great! We've been in Manhattan working on everything and we just got up to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie yesterday. Today is day two of tech! It's been great so far though!
We know that the show features a series of vignetts by a stellar group of playwrights- what more can you share about the concept?
So basically it is ten different short stories that are all told through dance. The music is by Stephen Flaherty, so it's obviously pretty amazing. Christopher Gattelli is directing and choreographing and there are AMAZING playwrights involved. It's really juicy stuff!
How many of them are you a part of?
I think I'm in seven of them. It's a large ensemble and a lot are involved in most of the pieces. A few of them just use two or three people though.
I think that Stephen Flaherty is one of our greatest theatre composers- I'd imagine it's a dream to dance to his music...
It's been so wonderful. All of the pieces take place in different time periods and locations, so I'd imagine that it would be a dream for Stephen to get to write so many different kinds of pieces. It's so exciting to hear how the different pieces take you different places. They affect the environment and the feeling and vibe of the whole piece.
Being a part of this allows you to get out of the city a bit! Are you enjoying your time in Poughkeepsie so far?
It's like being at summer camp! It's really wonderful being here. And the fact that we are here now is really helping us all put ALL of our energy into it. When you're in Manhattan, you're rehearsing in a studio, and of course you're thinking about the work, but your mind is still on the audition that you went to that morning and the show that you have that night. While we're here though we are in this artistic, creative bubble.
It's a wonderful environment. There are other shows that are running here as well, so it's not just our cast. We all get to share that creative energy.
What has it been like reuniting with Christopher Gattelli?
Chris and I work so well together- it all just fits like a glove. He is so great to work with. The environment that he creates in a dance studio is so special and so safe. I get excited any time that I get to work with Chris!
I've read that you'd like to try choreographing one day! Has Chris given you any good advice on making that transition?
Absolutely, I really look up to him. There have definitely been helpful conversations. He's definitely been a mentor figure to me for the past three years... also a friend, also a boss [Laughs]. He wears many hats!
Your professional career started when you were cast in West Side Story after attending an open call- do you ever wonder where your life would have taken you if you hadn't gone to that audition?
I do, and I have no idea what it would be! I probably wouldn't be in New York. I'd probably be working with a dance company somewhere. I'm just so thankful for that open call.
Do you see yourself ever going down that pat in the future?
I'm very happy right now, but I know that it is very dangerous to say 'no' to anything or to limit yourself, so I'm open to that. But I don't know if I really see myself doing that at this point.
It was announced recently that Newsies is closing later this summer...
I know, I can't believe it!
Have you been back to see the new kids since you left?
I have! I saw the show just a bit ago and it's in great shape. It's just so heartbreaking that that music and choreography won't be seen in New York anymore! I'm so excited about the tour though and I hope that a lot of new people will get to see it.
It seems like the original cast has stayed pretty close...
Oh yeah, I met some of my best friends during that, and we've stayed really close. [Laughs] Brendon Stimson just walked in the room actually!
Is it fair to say that that experience was a life-changer for you?
Absolutely, it was absolutely life changing. Not only did I meet some of my closest friends, but I got to work on that amazing material and on a Broadway stage. And I grew up with that movie, so it was a dream! It was a dream show.
Plus, working with someone like Chris Gattelli was so special because he tailored our tracks to each of us. So all I had to say was "I like to turn!" And he was just like, "Ok, cool! Turn on the newspaper!" It was so much fun to create it and to get to do it eight times a week... I felt so lucky.
That seems to be the consensus with that show!
I think it's safe to say that everyone involved truly loved it.
You've already accomplished so much, and yet you're still so young! Are there new goals that you'd still like to tackle?
I'm constantly creating new goals for myself. It's a danger to be complacent. I'm really happy with what I'm doing obviously, but every time I see a new audition say "I wanna do that!" Or when I hear about a new show with dancers, I say, "I wanna do that!" I just think that in this business it's important to stay motivated and to never settle.
In Your Arms will also star Stephen Bienskie, Christopher John Beroiz, Ashlee Dupre, Jenn Harris, Martin Harvey, Sean MartinHingston, Laurie Kanyok, Jess Leprotto, Marielys Molina, Kristen Oei, Adesola Osakalumi, Oneika Phillips, Hayley Podschun, Glenda Sol, Brendon Stimson, Alex Michael Stoll, Samantha Sturm and Christopher Vo.
Single tickets are now on sale. Visit http://powerhouse.vassar.edu for more info and to purchase subscription tickets.