Mark Shenton: 10 best UK musical theatre choreographers right now
The fastest-rising of the younger generation of choreographers, Drew McOnie – aged just 31 – seems to be everywhere at the moment. This year he choreographed the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s astonishing new production of Jesus Christ Superstar, for which his angular, distinctive movement was simply electrifying; as it was for Bugsy Malone (which returned for a second run at the Lyric Hammersmith this summer) and the ongoing In the Heights (now at King’s Cross after originating at Southwark Playhouse). He is currently in rehearsal for a stage version of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom, opening in Leeds in December, which he is directing as well as choreographing.
One of the safest pair of choreographic hands in the business is Stephen Mear, particularly on the classics: from Anything Goes at the National (which transferred to Drury Lane), to Kiss Me, Kate (Old Vic) and The Pajama Game (Chichester’s Minerva, which transferred to the Shaftesbury). He also co-choreographed Mary Poppins with Matthew Bourne. He’s currently working on a new production of 42nd Street for the Chatelet in Paris.
So far, Lee Proud’s work has mostly been seen on smaller London stages, such as Southwark Playhouse – most recently Grand Hotel, Grey Gardens and Allegro, each of which he made move with effortless sophistication – and the Arcola (a thrilling Carousel). But he deserves bigger stages. I’ve also seen his work in places as diverse as Off-Broadway (a strange musical called Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson), a new UK tour of The Producers and the National Youth Music Theatre’s recent production of Spring Awakening at Leicester’s Curve. This Christmas he’s choreographing the new production of Rent at the St James Theatre.
One of the hardest working choreographers is Nick Winston, whose work I’ve seen in the last year at theatres from Southampton (a tour of Annie) to Leicester (Legally Blonde). Over the past few years, I’ve also followed him around the country to Leeds (White Christmas), Manchester (Sweeney Todd), Mold (Merrily We Roll Along), Newbury (Calamity Jane) and Northampton (Follies). He’s as yet been underrepresented in the West End, though he was deservedly Olivier-nominated for the James Bourne musical Loserville. And he also did amazing work with the NYMT for its production of The Hired Man at the St James.
Another expert in period choreography, Andrew Wright’s work on Singin’ in the Rain (which transferred from Chichester to the Palace), Guys and Dolls (from Chichester to the Savoy) and Half a Sixpence (in Chichester and soon to transfer to the Noel Coward) has been effervescent and exhilarating,. He’s currently directing and choreographing a new production of Moby Dick at the Union Theatre, which opens officially on October 18.
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