Five Burning Questions with Cagney's Award-Winning Choreographer, Joshua Bergasse
April 20th, 2016
by Josh Ferri
Joshua Bergasse (the Emmy Award-winning choreographer of TV's Smash #Never4GetThatBaseballNumber and the Tony-nominated choreographer of Broadway's On the Town & Gigi) is dropping jaws at the Westside Theatre with the insane tap numbers in the off-Broadway bio-musical Cagney.
BroadwayBox caught up with Bergasse to talk about his vision for Cagney, the upcoming Broadway mounting of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and how he survived his crazy last year.
1. What was your introduction to James Cagney, and what would you tell a younger theatre fan to check out as a pre-show introduction to the Hollywood icon?
Of course, it was seeing Yankee Doodle Dandy when I was a kid. My gosh, I was probably seven or eight. Of course Yankee Doodle Dandy is a great film, where he plays George M. Cohan and you can see the musical side of him, but another famous one would be White Heat. Start with those two.
2. What was the most important piece of research you did for this show?
For me as the choreographer, it was going back and watching his dance styles and not getting confused when he was dancing as James Cagney and when he was dancing as George M. Cohan. Because when he played Cohan he danced like Cohan and that was different than his normal style.
3. How did winning an Emmy change your career?
Well, you certainly get exposure, and some people who may not have known of my work before that became aware of it. It opened up some doors and provided some opportunities. It takes times to see the results of something like that because people are planning out musicals and creative teams years in advance, so you don't come home from something like that and have 30 offers; but now people pay attention to your work and you can have conversations that hopefully lead to something down the road.
4. What excites you most about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory next season?
I am so excited to be working with this team. Working with Jack O'Brien is a dream come true. I feel lucky to be in their company. It's funny, when I was in Hairspray, I would watch them (Jack O'Brien, Scott Wittman, Marc Shaiman & Jerry Mitchell) all work, and I tried to study them and learn from the way they worked together to shape myself as an artist. Even though I was a young, budding choreographer, I always thought it would be incredible to work with these people in that capacity on that side of the stage with them; so when I say it's a dream come true, it literally is. I dreamt about being here.
5. Two big musicals on Broadway last season, what did it teach you about yourself?
It was a very busy season and it taught me I really love what I do; I basically went from one show to the other show. It was a fantastic year for me of being in the studio and in the theatre, choreographing beautiful shows with these beautiful casts, and then it was nice to take a little break. Right after that, we did Cagney at the York Theatre, so it went from one to the next to the next and then I went out-of-town to do [Up Here] at La Jolla Playhouse, then I got some time off.
My gosh, what's the first thing you did with that time off?
I went on some nice long walks with my dog in Central Park and along The River, and I didn't tell anybody I had some time off.
See Joshua Bergasse's incredible work in 'Cagney' at off-Broadway's Westside Theatre.