Warren Carlyle Interview: ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ choreographer
“I’m having to be more inventive, to be more athletic in a way, because the dancers are,” admits Warren Carlyle. The choreographer picked up his third Tony nomination for upping his game with inventive choreography for the current revival of “Kiss Me, Kate.” He previously won the category for his work on “After Midnight,” and chatted with Gold Derby about the challenges and successes that lead to his most recent nomination. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
On creating new dances, Carlyle says “I approach it like a writer. I wrote a story for ‘Too Darn Hot’ that interests me. “Too Darn Hot” is the classic show-stopping dance sequence that opens Act 2 of the Cole Porter musical. With stage directions in the script that simply read “and they dance,” there was certainly room for Carlyle to craft his own narrative. For him it became “a battle of the sexes… It’s a slow burn. I wanted to take my time with it. I never wanted to pull back.” The result is a sexy routine with a constant build, as bodies fly across the stage. It never lets up until an explosive finale where the dancers seem to melt into the stage.
Before rehearsals with the dancers, Carlyle will “probably plan about 70%” of a number. The remaining 30% is left up to collaboration with his performers. “I love when they bring themselves to it” he exclaims, “I don’t want to plan the divine inspiration out of it.”
One such moment of inspiration didn’t occur until “Kiss Me, Kate” was already in previews. While watching Corbin Bleu sing and dance his way through “Bianca,” Carlyle realized something was missing: “I looked at it and realized I was not utilizing David Rockwell’s set.” The three-tier structure was then filled with tap dancing chorus girls to canvas the space. The one area not utilized was the top balcony, so Carlyle had that set piece reinforced with bars so Bleu could swing his legs up to the sky and tap dance the ceiling while suspended upside down.
For Carlyle it all boils down to the material and the dancers in the room. “I think dancers have changed” he suggests. “They’re better every year.” And with that comes even more glorious choreography.