Pal Joey



JOEY PIZZI X390 | ADVOCATE.COMLast year you worked on the Cher-Christina Aguilera musical Burlesque. Steven Antin, the film’s writer-director, told us about all the classic films he referenced while planning the film. And there are many scenes that are, let’s be kind and say they’re reminiscent of Cabaret.
Reminiscent is a good word for it. [Laughs]

How involved was Steven in helping you create the Burlesque choreography?
Steven was very hands-on with what he wanted the choreography to be. The script was just a jumping off point. Some numbers, such as “Express” were already very fleshed out by the time we got there, but other songs were just a blank page, so it was up to us to choreograph them. A song like “A Guy What Takes His Time” was one of those. Steven would say, “Here’s the song. Find the funny.” He’d say that a lot, which I really appreciated. A number that’s just sexy gets really dull after a while. He’d always come into the room where we were working and have thoughts and it would inevitably get better. It was often about finding the humor. It certainly made me grow as a choreographer.

How extensively did you research burlesque as an art form?
We had a lot of books and video archives. We were choreographing in the same space that the set designers and costume designers were working, so we shared each other’s research materials. We looked at literally every possible reference we could find. Even though it was called Burlesque we didn’t want every song to be a strip number.

How did the final version of Burlesque measure up to the way you’d envisioned it?
I was pleased. It’s a huge, huge undertaking to do a musical. We had enough footage for a four-hour movie and I think Steven cut it down into a well-told story.

I don’t mean this in any disrespectful way, but Cher didn’t move very much in the film. Was this contractual or does she not respond to choreography?
[Laughs] I wasn’t involved in any meetings to know if there was talk about her doing other numbers, but I think her limited time was a factor. She’s really busy and we only had the month of January with her, so I think it was more about effectively using her time. I love the numbers that she did. With the amount of time we had her I don’t she could have handled more than she did. I was really proud of her.

How easily did Christina pick up the moves?
She was the hardest worker on the whole movie. She did a huge amount of dancing as the lead. When you’re a pop star you have a stable of people you frequently work with, including your choreographer, and you can become very consistent. Throwing herself into a new realm with new choreographers forced her to expand her movement vocabulary a lot. I think she stepped out of her comfort zone on Burlesque.

Tags: film