Nathan Wright has become one of Australia’s most successful choreographic ‘exports’ in recent years with extensive work on the 2010 London Olympics, several West End musicals and now the Sochi Winter Games in Russia.
On just a two-week break in his Winter Olympic choreographic schedule, Nathan has flown to Sydney to choreograph the Australian version of the 40th Anniversary Rocky Horror Show. We caught up with Nathan today for a quick chat!
How did you manage to squeeze choreographing The Rocky Horror Show into your very busy schedule?
“I have had a very tight schedule all year, especially with the (Winter) Olympics. When I found out that the show was going to Australia I was like,
Oh my god, I can’t have Rocky Horror come to Australia and not go! It’s a dream to have a show come from London to Australia so I did A LOT of bargaining and pleading, and so they agreed to give me two weeks off the Olympics – that’s all!! So I leave to go back to Russia on Monday (23rd December).”
It must have been fairly intense in rehearsal if you only had two weeks with the cast?
“It was lucky I had such a long flight from Russia to Australia! It’s been in London for the past year and so it was fairly much in my system, but when I got here and I met all the cast and saw how wonderful they are I kind of reinvented the whole thing again for these guys because they’re really special and unique and so that they feel that it’s their version.”
What are some of the unique features that you have invested in the Australian production?
“Because it’s such a universal production, and because Rocky Horror comes with such high expectations, what I tried to do with the show was to give it new life while still being really faithful to the fans and the people that obviously love the show. But I tried to be clever and invest a bit more detail into other numbers rather than just the Time Warp. I’ve tried to create choreography for other songs … so that the audience can join in on that as well. There’s especially one in Act 2 where the whole company actually do a song together … I’ve tried to do it in a way where they all join in like they do in the Time Warp. I’ve tried to give it new life so that people will walk away and think I didn’t know that song was in the show … But at the same time I’ve tried to remain very faithful to the show.”
The Rocky Horror Show has developed a cult following hasn’t it?
“It has a HUGE cult following, so I wanted to do it for new fans – for the people that haven’t ever seen it before because it’s like a new generation has come through and I’ve tried to cover 40 years of people loving this show!”
What was the process for you becoming the Choreographer for Rocky Horror?
“I worked with Chris Luscombe who is the director – he came out to Australia in 2009 – and he was doing something with AGT which I had a connection with and I was just asked to come in one day and take the dance audition, which I did. That’s when I met Chris, we got on really well, became friends and that was that. And then, when I got taken to London to do the Olympics, I got a phone call to say ‘We are going to re-mount Rocky Horror for the 40th Anniversary and we would love you to do it, and Chris Luscombe is the director!’ I was like I don’t believe it! So you never know when you might meet someone that can lead to something so incredible – he has just been so generous to me!”
How has it been working with the cast?
“Craig McLachlan blows me away – he is truly professional! What is so wonderful about him is that despite everything he has done, he comes into a room he is so open and says ‘Let’s try this, let’s do that’ … he’s done the production before so of course he comes with a knowledge of the show already yet he’s so open and says ‘I love your version!’ He is very entertaining – he can’t help himself! He’s very cheeky so there’s never a dull moment but when it’s time to work he is completely professional.
“All the cast are so sensational!
“Kristian (Lavercombe) has starred as Riff Raff in London and he is electrifying! Christie Whelan and Tim Maddren, who play Janet and Brad … they are so fantastic! Erica Heynatz as Magenta … Ashlea Pike as Columbia … Nicholas Christo (Eddie) and Brendan Irving (Rocky) … everyone is SO sensational … and our four phantoms –I’ve tried to make their parts in the show really adventurous with a really strong purpose.”
What advice do you have for our readers about becoming a choreographer?
“I think the best thing is to do is to learn! All along, when I was performing, I always knew I wanted to transition because I knew exactly where I wanted to be. So when I was about 25, I wrote to several of Australia’s top choreographers and I said, ‘Look, if there is anything you need, I’ll even run and get coffee for you, I will literally do anything’ … and they all wrote back, whether they had anything to offer me or not, they all got back to me … and the wonderful John O’Connell was the one who actually said ‘I’m doing this, would you like to come on board?’ So from there we went on to do four projects together.
There’s nothing wrong with saying to someone ‘Can I learn from you’ because I think that is the only way. I really enjoy watching choreographers work. I’ve tried to merge the knowledge that I’ve learnt – that I’m still learning – because everyone has a different process or certain way of doing things. I actually really like the fact that with all the people I work with – the creatives, the cast – they all try to leave a project having learnt something that they didn’t know before and generally that will always be the case because there are so many wonderful people, there is just so much knowledge around and I’m kind of like a sponge!”
Nathan returns to Russia on Monday to continue working towards the Winter Olympics in Sochi – he then moves on to a new musical in London and a possible Australian engagement later in the year.