Susan Stroman

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Her inventive and snappy work helped establish her as Broadway’s leading choreographer of the 90s.
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b. 17 October 1954, Wilmington, Delaware, USA. Broadway’s leading choreographer of the 90s, Stroman’s inventive and snappy work has enhanced several highly successful Broadway revivals, breathing new life into the American musical following a long period of British dominance. She started dancing at the age of five, studying ballet, jazz and tap, whilst also taking piano lessons. Inspired by Fred Astaire movies, and the George Balanchine ballets she went to see on trips to New York, Stroman choreographed school plays at high school before majoring in theatre at the University of Delaware. After graduation, in the late 70s she worked as a dancer in regional productions of Hit The Deck, Chicago, and Whoopee (also Broadway), before serving as assistant director/choreographer, with Scott Ellis, on the 14-performance 1980 off-Broadway flop, Musical Chairs. More choreographic work on off-Broadway shows such as Broadway Babylon, Sayonara, Slasher, and Rhythm Ranch, was followed by a reunion with Ellis, and librettist David Thompson, for the 1987 revival of Flora, The Red Menace at the tiny Vineyard Theatre in New York. The revised production became a cult hit, and so impressed Flora’s composer and lyricist, John Kander and Fred Ebb, that they consented to a retrospective revue of their work created by Stroman, Ellis, and Thompson. Stroman won Outer Critics Circle and Drama League awards for the resulting And The World Goes ‘Round, and in the same year - 1991 - Liza Minnelli, who co-starred in original 1956 Flora, commissioned Stroman to stage the dances for Minnelli’s Stepping Out At Radio City, an event which broke the venue’s 59-year box office record. Prior to this, Stroman had choreographed Hal Prince’s production of Don Giovanni at the New York City Opera, the first of several projects, including 110 In The Shade and A Little Night Music, she would undertake for that company. Stroman was also in at the very beginning of Prince’s 1992 musical, Kiss Of The Spider Woman. It proved ‘a disastrous experience’, and she jumped ship before the voyage had hardly begun. She turned instead to Crazy For You (1992), winning Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Tony Award s, for the electrifying contribution to the Broadway production, and a Laurence Olivier Award for the West End version. This was the big one for Stroman: ‘It certainly exposed me to the masses. It did change my life.’ In more ways than one it seems, because she met her future husband, Mike Okrent, while he was directing Crazy For You. More success, and another Tony, plus the Theatre Development Fund Astaire Award for Excellence in dance on Broadway, followed with the 1994 revival of Show Boat. Not so hot - in fact they were flops - were two subsequent major Stroman shows, Big (1994) and Steel Pier (1997). Even with the failures, this immensely talented artist, whose work has been compared favourably to Balanchine himself by legendary New York Times critic Frank Rich, brought something extra-special to the dance process - whether it be her trademark props and big, exciting production numbers, or the sexy, lyrical stuff - they all have the Stroman pizzazz. Other shows to benefit from her dedication and skill have been The Roar Of The Greasepaint - The Smell Of The Crowd (1990) and Gypsy (1991), as well as a number of special events including the annual Madison Square Garden annual spectacular A Christmas Carol, and the television specials, An Evening With The Boston Pops-A Tribute To Leonard Bernstein (1989) and Sondheim -A Celebration At Carnegie Hall (1992). In 1998, Stroman received what many in musical theatre would consider to be the ultimate accolade. Called in by Trevor Nunn to work on his Royal National Theatre revival of Oklahoma!, she was given carte blanche by the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein estate to change Agnes De Mille’s original 1943 choreography. No other professional company had been granted that freedom in over half a century.