‘Annie Live!’ choreographer Sergio Trujillo on telling stories through dance and paying tribute to Ann Reinking [Exclusive Video Interview]

“What was important for me was to really present the numbers that I felt had the strongest storytelling through choreography,” says Sergio Trujillo (“Annie Live!”) about selecting the three dance routines that earned him his Emmy nomination for Best Choreography for Variety or Reality Programming: “Hard Knock Life,” “We Got Annie,” and “NYC.” “Ultimately, what was most important to me was to be able to figure out a way of advancing the plot, how to use dance as narrative as opposed to just dance numbers.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Trujillo above.

“Annie Live!” stars Celina Smith as the title orphan who in 1933 forms a close bond with billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Harry Connick Jr.) after suffering under the “care” of cruel orphanage matron Miss Hannigan (Taraji P. Henson). Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger plays Warbucks’s faithful secretary Grace, who’s the center of the “We Got Annie” number that was made famous by renowned actress and dancer Ann Reinking in the 1982 feature film adaptation of “Annie.” She was “a personal friend of mine,” Trujillo remembers of Reinking, who died in 2020. “It became a personal journey for me to make sure that I created this number in her memory, that I pay homage to her. And really, I had her on my shoulder the entire time.”

Naturally, the iconic “Hard Knock Life,” one of the show’s best known tunes, is performed by the cast of child actors. This was the first time Trujillo has worked with so many youth performers, but he was struck by “their resilience, their spirit, the joy, the passion, their unconditional love for what they did,” especially as they rehearsed in the midst of COVID-19. “As a matter of fact, when I was choreographing ‘Hard Knock Life,’ the whole time I was thinking, if these girls love the number then I’ve done my job. And sure enough, these girls, no matter how many times they did it, no matter how many times they rehearsed, they were always there, full-on, 100%.”

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