Choreographer Tony Gianchetta brings contemporary feel to “Kiss Me Kate”
By NINA LARAMORE / Santa Rosa Correspondent
When attending the 6th Street Playhouse’s current production of “KissMe Kate,” many are pulled into the music, the acting and the story. But one of the true stars of the production is choreography and longtime Santa Rosa resident Anthony (Tony) Gianchetta.
His choreography for “Kiss Me Kate” brings a modern influence to a show that first was produced on Broadway in 1949. The dance numbers to “Too Darn Hot,” “Always True to You In My Fashion,” and the hilarious “Brush up Your Shakespeare” are just a few of the dance numbers that make the show contemporary and increase the tempo of the entire production.
“Kiss Me Kate is one of the first shows I danced in and this is my fifth time choreographing it,” Gianchetta says. “Each show is different. When planning the dances you have to look at what the director wants, what will help tell the story and what the aptitude and caliber of the dancers are.”
Gianchetta has a reputation of teaching even the most uncorrdinated actors to make dance numbers work. He says that what has helped him become so well respected as a choreographer is his eye for people.
“Some people just don’t move well,” Gianchetta says. “You have to have the knack of teaching them. Often you have to throw out moves that you had planned because it’s over the head of the people you are working with. It’s what makes choreography challenging. I love teaching.” He says that in some cases he needs to teach students to hear the rhythm in the music.
“It’s hard to find men who can really dance,” Gianchetta says. “Most woman can dance. They just know how to move. But, many men don’t. This was a particularly great group to work with. I couldn’t have looked as good as I did as a choreographer without working with such a great group of people.”
Gianchetta, a long time Santa Rosa resident, is well known in the Sonoma County theater community for his work at the Marquee Theater, SRT, the Santa Rosa Players and the Celeste Conservatory. He also spent four years in London as a director, teacher and choreographer. He performed in nightclubs, had his own children’s television show and taught dance from Utah to California.
Gianchetta was born dancing. “I was always dancing around the house and my sister finally told my mother to get me into a dance class before I drove her crazy,” he says. He went on to study tap, ballet, jazz and modern dance.
He studied with such notable teachers as Lila Zali, the spirited founder of Ballet Pacifica, Orange County’s most prominent ballet company.
Some of the early work that Gianchetta did was choreographing at Woodminster Amphitheater in the east bay with Santa Rosa dancers and actors. Long time Santa Rosa residents will remember a donut shop on 4th Street named after the Broadway show, “Plain and Fancy.” A Broadway actor Jim Schlader and his former Rockette wife Harriet owned the shop. They took over the management of Woodminster in 1967 while still making donuts. Gianchetta choreographed “Kiss Me Kate” for Woodminster that first season.
Many Santa Rosa residents were recruited as dancers, actors, assistants and dressmakers for those early shows including the drama group Jim Schlader started at the Church of the Roses, 2500 Patio Court. Santa Rosa residents involved in those productions whose families still live in Santa Rosa include: Dolores Clayton, Lee Francis, Darryl Laramore, Bob Guske, Julie Palmieri, Jeanne Ballatore, Wes Dickison, Andy Dickison, Lois Dickison, Betty Dickison and Terry Dickison.
“Gianchetta was always a talented choreographer and a pleasure to work with,” Harriet Schlader says. “I wish I could make it to Santa Rosa to see what he’s done with “Kiss Me Kate.”
“Kiss Me Kate” will be at the 6th Street Playhouse through September 4. Tickets may be purchased by calling 523-4185.