Footloose The Musical: Up Close With Choreographer Jerri Hudgens-Romero

By Nikki Garrett Metzger

(Victorville) – This is the final weekend of the amazing Hannett-Thorn production of Footloose the Musical at the High Desert Center for the Arts.  This show is getting great reviews: it has an amazing cast, great music, a fun story, and most of all the dancing is awesome!

You may think you have seen this one because you have seen the movies, but there is nothing like seeing it live.  That is a completely different experience.  And there is a lot that goes into a show like this: hours of rehearsals, creating the costumes, building the set, and putting together the dance moves that make it all come together.

The lady behind the fancy footwork is choreographer Jerri Hudgens-Romero.  She started dancing when she was a little child under the tutelage of Nancy Sewell and continued to work with Sewell and teach with her over the years.  She started doing the choreography for Hannett-Thorn productions with their very first show Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I spoke with Jerri about Footloose and her involvement in the production:

High Desert Daily: What were your thoughts when you heard Danny (Thorn) and Tom (Hannett) were going to do Footloose the Musical?

Jerri: Oh that was amazing! First of all I’m a product of the eighties so it was great to have something that was right up my alley. I grew up dancing in the eighties and watching all of the movies. So when they said that they were thinking about doing Footloose I was ecstatic that I was going get the opportunity to do that kind of dancing.

HDD: Obviously the choreography is a huge part of this particular show. The moves and everything I saw on stage, was that all original or did the script come with something already done?

Jerri: No it was all original it doesn’t come with anything already done. Some of the scenes are blocked out by the producers, Tom and Danny, or the director, Robert. But all of the dancing I handle. We sit down and collaborate to get an idea of what we want to see. When I hear the music and listen to what the other guys see, I produce it from there and give it to them on stage. So it comes out of my head.

Tom usually gives me music from the Broadway production and the script. I read through the whole thing, get an idea, listen to the Broadway performance, then I go through the book and at each dance piece I start my choreography. I like to teach a pattern in pieces for people because, not only do they have to dance, they have to sing too and make it look effortless. And so that’s what I try to do with my choreography. I make it something that’s simple to learn. I break it down into layman’s terms that the actors can understand instead of dance terms. And I teach it in patterns so that they can always go back and learn it in that pattern.

The dance crew has been amazing. The whole cast has really put a lot of hard work into learning the dancing. I’m a pretty low key kind of a person, but I’m really a perfectionist when it comes to how things should look and the attitude and character that they put behind it. They really stepped up and did an amazing job in the short amount of time that we had to work together.

HDD: What are you most excited about in this show?

Jerri: I’m most excited that we’re putting on this huge production in a theater this size and making it look as wonderful as it would be if it was on an L.A theater stage. I think we’ve really been able to accomplish that. I’m excited for everybody that comes to see the show; they will have the opportunity to be entertained by everything: the story, the dance, the acting and the singing.

HDD:  What was different about this show from other shows you have choreographed?  What was most challenging?

Well I just did Forever Plaid, so going from working with four guys to this massive cast was a huge change.  Working with four guys previously, I was worried about filling the stage. With this production I was worried about overcrowding the stage and making it look a mob. I didn’t want it to be a flash mob on the stage.

The other challenge is that a lot of those dancers are students in school, or they have jobs, so we didn’t always have everybody at every rehearsal. That makes it challenging to place people and make sure they’re learning in the short amount of time that they have with me. Plus I work for a school district and I also work at a dance studio, so I only have certain days that I can be here. That’s where everybody steps up, you know they posted stuff on Facebook, people were doing videos so that we could all stay on the same page and get it done.

HDD:  When you are sitting there watching the full show on stage, what are your thoughts?

JH: I get the chills. I’m always amazed because I don’t get to see it in order during rehearsals, so to see it run in order and feel the story fit in with what the dance actually does. It just gives me chills and an absolute sense of pride. I feel like I’m giving something to somebody else for those two hours that they’re at the show. That sort of entertainment that they can take with them to share and talk about. Maybe they will refer somebody else to come to one of our shows.

Hannett-Thorn’s Production of Footloose the musical is in its final weekend.  There are two shows today at 2:30 and 7:30pm.  Call (760)559-3550 or (760)217-5414 for tickets or more information. Tickets can also be purchased at the High Desert Center for the Arts box office: 15615 8th Street in Victorville, 760-243-7493.

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