Call Answered: Lawrence Leritz: "Dancers Over 40 Legacy Awards" + "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"
I’ve always been fascinated by those who can truly dance. Chita Rivera, Gene Kelly, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, and Paula Abdul are just some of those who inspire me with their dance moves.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to interview dancer/choreographer Lawrence Leritz. Lawrence will be honored on December 10 at the Dancers Over 40 Legacy Awards, where he will receive the 10th Anniversary Legacy Award, presented by Tony Award winning Choreographer Jerry Mitchell. Lawrence can also be seen kicking his heels up in the second season of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, dropping 12/5.
1. On December 10, you are being honored by the Dancers Over 40 Legacy Awards, where your longtime friend and Tony Award winning Choreographer Jerry Mitchell will introduce and speak about you. What does this honor mean to you & to have the award be given to you by Jerry? I am really thrilled and grateful to be receiving the 10th Anniversary Legacy Award from my peers. There's no one in show biz I respect more than dancers. The Legacy Award feels like a pinnacle point shining on so many years as a dancer and choreographer. A pat on the back from those that I admire the most.
Jerry and I go back to the early days of our Broadway careers. I'm guessing we met in 1980. We kept seeing each other at auditions and became friends. We both became busy doing shows. In 1983, I was hired to produce, direct and choreograph one-night shows called Broadway Showstoppers at various Broadway Theatres. We were part of New York Fashion week and wore designer costumes. Other than that, I did what I wanted. It was a great opportunity to create.
The first one was at the Hudson Theatre on 44th St (then named The Savoy). I asked a lot of excellent Broadway dancer friends to perform. The executive producer wanted all girls, but I said I had to have at least one male. They agreed and I called Jerry. The show was a big hit and Jerry was terrific. I knew he would be. Shortly afterwards, we did a smaller version of the show for the Men's Fashion Association in Philadelphia and dancer John DeLuca (producer/writer of Mary Poppins Returns) also joined our group. So it's very touching and meaningful to have Jerry with me that evening.
2. Who or what inspired you to be a dancer/choreographer? As a dancer, Gene Kelly. I grew up in a small town in Illinois, near St. Louis, Mo. As a kid, Gene looked like a regular guy to me. I began taking tap dancing lessons as a teen. Less than a year later, I made my professional debut in the St. Louis Muny's world stage premiere production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair. It starred Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, directed by James Hammerstein, supervised by Richard Rodgers and choreographed by my 2nd inspiration, Tommy Tune. What a beginning! Everyone was so nice to me. It lead me to believe everyone in showbiz was nice. Lol.
3. When you look back on your career, what are you most proud of and what is something you wish you did differently? Probably that I've endured all this time in show biz and am busy still working. Besides the upcoming episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I just shot a commercial for Walgreens and recently a feature film comedy Love In Kilnerry as “Deputy Rory.” I saw a rough cut of the film and it's hilarious.
Differently? I would have enjoyed doing some more musicals on Broadway. I had additional opportunities, but I was focused on different career directions at the time. I do believe we are always in our perfect place.
4. What do you like most about expressing your creativity through dance as opposed to another medium? Adam, you ask great questions. Movement is a special, non-verbal common language that dancers share. It was the first art form that appeared on the planet. I love the joyful, focused and spiritual feeling of the group experience, uniting together to create some beauty on this planet. A joining together of our minds, bodies and souls for a higher purpose.
5. You have appeared on numerous TV shows throughout your career including All My Children, Sex and the City and the upcoming season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. What can you tell us about your time filming on Sex and the City? That was fun! I auditioned for the role of the “Sexy Hunk” for an episode called La Douleur Exquise. Lol. Sounds deep, doesn't it? They wanted an actor who could deliver a few lines and club dance. We shot at the Barracuda Bar in Chelsea. When the costume supervisor Kevin Draves (who later co-designed costumes for Boobs! The Musical) brought my costume to me, it was a pair of briefs. My mind was racing. Luckily when I arrived on set, everyone had on underwear. It's a funny scene where “Stanford” (Willie Garson) goes to an underground club to hook up with a guy that he met on the internet. My lines were cut, but you can see me in the scene shaking my groove thing.
6. What are you looking forward to about your episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel coming out? What was it like to dance on that show? I'm interested to see how the various takes are edited together. It was hard work. I think we're in two episodes. Originally I was told it would be social dancing, so I thought, "well that sounds easy." I found out in morning rehearsal that we were doing very energetic swing dancing to a fast Benny Goodman song! We filmed sixteen hours a day for three consecutive days. I had several dancer friends there which made it a fun experience. And I made some new ones.
7. You also toured with two of my favorite artists, The Weather Girls (featuring Martha Wash) & Laura Branigan. Do you have any fun stories about working with them? I opened for The Weather Girls in LA at the well-known gay dance club Studio One, also in a sexy outfit. After they did their first song, the boys were yelling for me to return. I was sitting in my dressing room oblivious. The Weather Girls started yelling "where is that cute boy?" Security came and escorted me back to the stage. They sang another song and asked me to stand between them as they were bumping and grinding up against me with their hips. The crowd at Studio One went crazy.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a dancer? Patience. Humility. Focus. Dedication. The importance of being the first one to extend love to others and not thinking about yourself.
9. You are also the producer and choreographer of the 2003 hit Off-Broadway show Boobs! The Musical. What was it like to wear the producing hat for this venture? I enjoy producing. But this one was tough. I worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I managed to keep it open for nearly a year. It was my doctorate's degree in producing. I learned a lot. I am very proud that it was a springboard for discovering some new talents, including Kristy Cates (Wicked) and Alena Watters (The Cher Show).
10. If you could dance with anyone, who would you choose? I've already enjoyed dancing with so many great ladies from ballet's Margot Fonteyn and Natalia Makarova to TV's Lorene Yarnell (Shields & Yarnell). I'll trust the universe on the next one.
More on Lawrence:
Lawrence Leritz began his career as a internationally acclaimed dancer working with the Who's Who of dance: George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alvin Ailey, Robert Joffrey, Ruth Page, John Neumeier, Tommy Tune and Sir Frederick Ashton, working with such companies as Hamburg Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Chicago Ballet, Israel's Bat Dor Dance Company, Paris Opera and as guest artist throughout the world, including Placido Domingo's Los Angeles Music Center Opera. Broadway: Jerome Robbins revival of Fiddler On The Roof, Fonteyn & Nureyev On Broadway and appeared regionally in The Muny's productions of Can-Can and the world stage premiere of Rodgers & Hammerstein's State Fair, starring Ozzie & Harriet Nelson. Off-Broadway he produced & choreographed the hit show Boobs! The Musical, repeating the same duties on Broadway for the upcoming play, The Lost Boy by Ron Palillo. Choreography highlights includes Alone for The Hamburg Ballet, Los Angeles Music Center Opera, Motown's film musical The Last Dragon and TV's mime duo Shields & Yarnell for Atlantic City. Leritz produced The 50th Anniversary Gala of The American Guild of Musical Artists, featuring over 300 stars of ballet and opera at The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center with hosts Beverly Sills and Peter Martins.
Film roles include: Love In Kilnerry (2019), Julie Taymor's Across The Universe, The Adjustment Bureau and Easy Money. TV includes: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Season 2, opened the 2017 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, Emmy winning Night Of Too Many Stars on Comedy Central, Saturday Night Live, All My Children and in the best selling exercise DVD, Total Stretch with Lawrence Leritz. As a Spectrum Records recording artist he scored a #1 dance hit single with “Crank It Up,” headlining The Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. In 1996, Lawrence was honored for his work by Time Magazine, as their Local Hero for producing the annual television event Day Of Compassion.