Joshua Bergasse of Farmington Hills refreshes his choreography for the upcoming tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Detroit Opera House.
Featured photo by Jeremy Daniel
Joshua Bergasse won’t be in town for the touring production of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but his choreography will be.
Bergasse, whose fascination with dance launched at his mom’s Annette and Company School of Dance in Farmington Hills, planned the intricate footwork for the Broadway run and tweaked it a bit for the tour.
“I was not available to get to the bulk of the rehearsals for this tour so my associate choreographer, Alison Solomon, took over setting the choreography for the road,” says Bergasse, 47, preparing to direct and choreograph a Japanese production of The Bodyguard. “She did the Broadway show and first tour with me.
“All the dances for the tour are essentially the same as the ones done on Broadway, but when we did the tour, we thought there were a couple of things we could do better. I had choreographic ideas and the designers had some new design ideas.
“The tour is probably one step better than the Broadway production.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be staged Feb. 18-March 1 at the Detroit Opera House. The musical, based on a Roald Dahl story about Willy Wonka and his invention of the Everlasting Gobstopper, takes place when Willy is opening his factory to a lucky few, including Charlie Bucket, whose life needs sweetening.
The adventures are enhanced with new music by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman adding to numbers by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley heard in the movie version. The hit songs “Pure Imagination,” “The Candy Man” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” still ring out.
“All of the songs in this show are so different from each other that they gave me so many opportunities to do different styles of dance,” says Bergasse, who also has Jewish heritage in common with Solomon.
“I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because of the story about imagination and parenting; it’s really sweet. I also love the music by the same guys who wrote the music for Smash (the TV series that Bergasse choreographed). I’m a big fan of Scott and Mark, and I love choreographing their music.”
Working on Smash brought Bergasse an Emmy Award for choreography. He also has won the Fred Astaire Award for his choreography on the Broadway revival of On the Town and the Chita Rivera Award for the choreography of a revival of Sweet Charity. Additional award nominations have been made for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics recognition.
“Since Smash, I choreographed the Broadway revival of On the Town, the Broadway revival of Gigi and an off-Broadway production of Sweet Charity starring Sutton Foster (raised in Troy),” says Bergasse, who taught at his mom’s studio and now teaches at New York schools, including the Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway.
“Because of my choreography jobs, I call up different studios and say I’m free on certain days and ask if they have any slots for me to teach. They slot me in. It’s really a good deal for me and for them.”
Last year, when he directed and choreographed I Married an Angel at the New York City Center, he connected deeply with the theme. He has been married for just over a year to Sara Mearns, a star in that show and a principal dancer at New York City Ballet.
“We didn’t have an actual Jewish wedding ceremony, but we were under a chuppah and did break the glass,” he says. “We got married on a beach in North Carolina. Together, we lit the Chanukah candles this past year.”
Bergasse, who returned to Michigan to celebrate Thanksgiving, will be in town April 19 for a gala to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the dance studio started by his mom and now managed by his brother, Mark. The brothers will perform together.
Involvement with the family dance studio makes Bergasse especially appreciative of involvement with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“It’s fun for the whole family,” he says. “There are great lessons in the show, but it’s also super-entertaining. One of my favorite moments is when the Oompa-Loompas (factory workers) make their first appearance (the show-stopping number).”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be staged Feb. 18-March 1 at the Detroit Opera House. Tickets start at $29. (313) 872-1000, ext. 0. Broadwayindetroit.com.