Christopher Gattelli at the 2018 TONY® Meet The Nominees Press Event. Photo Credit: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
The final featured choreographer in Dance Network’s spotlight series, featuring the artists nominated for the TONY® for Best Choreography, is not only nominated for his fifth TONY® this season, but he’s also the only artist to be nominated for two different shows. Christopher Gattelli, who’s distinguished work creating the dance sequences in both My Fair Lady and SpongeBob SquarePants has earned him two TONY® nominations, not only carries the reputation of creating original, agile, and invigorating movement on the stage, but also that of one of the hardest working choreographers in show business.
Being nominated for two different shows in the same year is a feat not often attained by a choreographer; in fact, including Gattelli, it’s only happened four times in the TONYs’® 72 year history. The most recent occurrence was in back 2005, when Jerry Mitchell was nominated for both La Cage Aux Folles (for which he won) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The other two instances: Susan Stroman in 2000 for The Music Man and Contact (for which she won), and in 2002 when Jon Carrafa was nominated for both Into The Woods and Urinetown.
As a young dancer, Christopher Gattelli grew up in Bristol Pennsylvania and began his training one day when his parents dropped his sister off at dance class.
"My parents had to run errands or something, and they said just stay here with your sister for the hour,” Gattelli told Philadelphia’s Inquirer Newspaper in a 2012 interview. "I was a kid who played baseball and soccer. I was watching my sister, watching her dance, and thought, ‘That looks like fun. Why can't I do that?’”
Christopher Gabelli in Cats. Photo Credit: Cats The Musical
Gattelli, who made his Broadway debut dancing the role of Pouncival in Cats, did just that when he joined the long running production in 1996. Gattelli also performed on The Great White Way in the mid-90’s revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and in the 1999 Best Musical winning production of Fosse.
In 1997, Gatteli was asked to choreograph the opening to a Broadway Cares benefit concert in which an original Ziegfeld Follies dancer was to tap-dance with an ensemble of Broadway’s best. The number, later featured on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, nabbed Gattelli the role of the resident choreographer of the hit daytime television talk show.
O’Donnell and Gattelli are both former winners of Ed McMahon’s 1980’s hit television competition series, Star Search.
A transition to the choreographic world seemed only natural to Gattelli after the success he found on The Rosie O’Donnell Show.
In 2001, Gattelli found his way onto the creative team for the Lawrence O’Keefe, Brian Flemming, and Keythe Farley’s new musical, Batboy. The musical, which has since gone on to become a huge cult classic, ran Off-Broadway for close to nine months, won the Outer Critic Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway musical, and featured early career performances by Kerry Butler, Leslie Kritzer, and 2017 TONY® winner Gavin Creel.
Gattelli’s choreography in 2012’s Newsies won him his first TONY® award. Photo Credit: Deen van Meer
Gattelli’s next big hit would come again in the form of a profitable Off-Broadway production. In 2005, Gattelli set the choreography to Outer Critics Circle Award winning musical Altar Boyz after a successful try-out in the 2004 New York Music Theatre Festival.
Shortly after Alter Boyz was declared a hit, Gattelli’s first opportunity to choreograph on Broadway came in the 2006 production of Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me.
With the somewhat short lived Broadway runs over the next few years with shows like High Fidelity, The Ritz, and Sunday In The Park With George, it was 2008’s acclaimed revival of South Pacific that not only sent Gattelli’s star flying, but also ushered him to his first nomination for a TONY® for Best Choreography.
Gattelli would return to Broadway again in late 2008 for the Broadway staging of Jason Robert Brown’s 13 which had tried out at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Musicals.
In 2010, after two other productions with Goodspeed Musicals— Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter and Radio Girl— Gattelli was beckoned back to the Broadway boards. Director Bartlett Sher, with whom Gattelli had worked on South Pacific, sought him out to create the movement for Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.
After the opportunity to create the musical staging for Little Miss Sunshine at La Jolla Playhouse and Off-Broadway’s SILENCE: The Musical, Gattelli was hired to build the choreography for the stage version of Disney’s classic cult-film, Newsies, for New Jersey’s Papermill Playhouse.
Christopher Gattelli. Photo Credit: Notey.com
After staging the choreography for 2011’s Broadway revival of Godspell, Newsies finally made it’s way to Broadway just in time for the 2012 season. The dances he created for Newsies would serve as the vehicle for Gattelli’s second nomination and first win for the Best Choreography TONY® award.
In 2015, another successful revival emerged out of Lincoln Center with Gattelli’s name attached as choreographer. With much of the same creative team returning from the 2008 hit South Pacific, The King And I earned Gattelli his third TONY® nomination for Best Choreography.
Gattelli was hired in 2016 to choreograph the feature film Hail, Caesar!
This season SpongeBob SquarePants, tied with the Casey Nicholaw choreographed Mean Girls, leads the field among all eligible musicals with eleven TONY® nominations. On top of Gattelli’s nomination for a Best Choreography, SpongeBob holds nominations in categories including Best Director for Tina Landau, Best Actor In A Musical for newcomer Ethan Slater— who plays the recognizable sponge, Best Orchestrations, Best Costumes, and the coveted Best Musical.
My Fair Lady is promising to be yet another successful gathering of the team responsible for 2008’s South Pacific and 2015’s The King And I. The revival of the classic and beloved musical has not only earned Gattelli a TONY® nomination, but also one for his longtime friend Bartlett Sher, who’s being recognized in the Best Direction Of A Musical category. The production is also nominated in the Best Revival Of A Musical category.
Gattelli was originally slated to choreograph Disney Theatrical’s Frozen, but due to what was reported as Gattelli’s choice to leave the production, Rob Ashford took his place. Frozen also opened on Broadway in the 2018 season.
plays the Palace Theatre and plays Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre, both nightly, on Broadway.
The 2018 TONY® awards will be presented June 10th LIVE from Radio City Music Hall, hosted byand Sara Bareilles . Dance Network’s coverage of the TONY’s® continues each week leading up to the telecast, so keep checking back for the latest.
Michael Mahany is a writer, host, and serves as the New York City Correspondent for Dance Network. Follow him onand .