The Life marks Paul Romero, Jr.’s first major choreographing gig in the L.A. area, but the young dancer has already amassed an enviable resumé. As a dancer, he has appeared in major productions of Cats, West Side Story, Oliver, Phantom, Beauty And The Beast, and many more. He has performed with such artists as Britney Spears, Mandi Leigh, Trinity, and Mariana Seone. He has also worked extensively with Ovation Award-winning choreographer Dana Solimando, both locally and in Asia. Naturally we wanted to know more about this StageSceneLA favorite who graciously sat down to answer our questions about his career and The Life.

Paul, leaping high above the crowd!

• Hi Paul. So, where are you from originally? 

I was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I attended school and received a major part of my training. 

• When did you start performing?

I had always been involved with performing in school shows since I was a kid, musicals, choir, orchestra, and also joined a school called Colorado Academy of the Arts around 8th grade. 

•  When did you start to think that you might have a career in dance?

Actually, it wasn’t until I joined Canyon Concert Ballet and took my first hip-hop, jazz and ballet classes in the spring of ’98 that I even considered dance as a profession. Along with encouragement from friends and constant support from my family, seeing a touring performance of the show Cats is the one thing that really got me interested in pursuing dance/performing as a career. 

Paul, after he became one of the Cats!

•  How does it feel being in charge this time and not assisting?

It’s definitely a lot more work and takes up tons more time being the actual choreographer but I’m loving every step of the process. 

•  Had you choreographed before?

I’ve choreographed several shows back in Colorado, and have either co-choreographed or assisted on some amazing jobs out here, but this is my first big show in L.A. and I definitely love having the artistic creativity and being a part of the whole creative process. With that said, having Erin Spencer as an assistant on this show has definitely helped to keep me sane. But being in charge comes with a lot of responsibility, besides being fun and definitely something that I could get used to.

• You’ve worked with a number of great choreographers. Is there one of them who’s had a particular influence on you as a dancer?

As far as choreographers that I’ve worked with professionally, I would have to say that Dana Solimando and Sha Newman are two that have mostly had a huge positive influence on who I am as a dancer and choreographer. Watching them and learning what they expect from dancers has helped me to build and establish a hard work ethic for myself as a dancer. As a choreographer, they’ve influenced me by showing me things like how to make small changes to a phrase in order to make it much more powerful and effective, how important it is to have and to build positive relationships with your dancers, and how to maintain yourself as a professional. Then of coarse there is Bob Fosse who I never met, but has probably had the biggest influence on me and my style as a choreographer. These are just a few, but I’ve also been influenced by the greats Gene Kelly, Michael Bennett, and some contemporary choreographers like Marty Kudelka, Gil Duldulao and Gustavo Vargas.

Paul discovers the beauty(ies) of Japan

• I understand that your career has enabled you to travel quite a bit. What parts of the world have you visited? What have been your most exciting experiences as a dancer/choreographer abroad?

I’ve actually been very fortunate this year to have been given a few opportunities to travel to Asia for different jobs. Before that, I had traveled throughout the U.S. for work, but had never been outside the country. 

• How did the Asian gigs come about?

While I was co-choreographing a show called “Route 66” for Crystal Cruises alongside Dana Solimando earlier this year, we got to travel to several different major cities throughout China and Japan. We were able to walk on The Great Wall, visit the Hiroshima memorial museum and park, and do lots of shopping in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Osaka and other major cities. I also returned to Japan for a short tour of the musical Swing! this summer. 

Paul about to get jumped on in Swing!

By staying in each city for at least a week, I got to learn more about the culture and also got to do lots of tourist things like Disney, Universal Studios and hang with some awesome friends.

• The Life was choreographed on Broadway by Joey McKneely. In choreographing this revival, do you start from scratch or borrow some from the original?

There were definitely some things that our director Joe Greene had asked me to recreate or adapt from the original, but I also wanted to take as much liberty to set my own choreography. There are a few numbers that were definitely influenced by what Joey McKneely set for the Broadway company but for the most part the choreography came from what I thought it should look like. I adapted the Fosse style that Joey used and even gave homage through a few specific moves, but our production is going to be a completely different production than “The Life” that was seen on Broadway .

• What can we look forward to in this revival of The Life?

Without giving anything away, I think the audience will be in for a treat when it comes to the phenomenal vocal talents of the cast, some old school Fosse choreography, amazingly staged scenes and direction by Joe and a few high energy dance numbers.

•  The show sounds like it’s going to be amazing, and one I’ll want to see more than once!

Thank you so much Steven for this opportunity and for always showing the theater community your support.  I’m looking forward to an amazing run.

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