Tony Mordente Tribute Site

Questions & Answers

 

Tony has graciously answered many questions sent my fans.  If you have a question, please send to webmaster@yahoo.com.  We will try to answer as many questions as possible.  For now, please enjoy some inside information and advice below.  

 

 

Question:

In terms of the dancing, what made West Side Story unique from previousmusicals before it. How technically challenging was the dancing? Versus the TV production? Did the TV version offer the same or equally as satisfying dance as the musical version? Did most of the dancers have ballet background and was it necessary?

 Answer:

WSS was different in that we had to dance in character and while acting as our individual characters, as oppose to being part of a generic chorus.  It was very technically challenging.   Some of the dancers have said it was the hardest choreography they ever had to do.  There was no TV version, but the film choreography was also technically difficult but satisfying.  Both required long rehearsals periods.  Yes most of the dancers on both Broadway and Film had some ballet training.  Jerome Robbins also did a barre routine with us on a daily basis. 

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 Question:

Of all the characters in the show which of the roles was physically most challenging from a dancing perspective??

 Answer:

Any of the Jets, because Cool alone was quite challenging, with all the knees turns and splits.   In the film version, Eliot Feld actually got sick during the filming and after we did the final take of the movie, all the Jets actually set our knee pads on fire in front of Jerome Robbins’ office.  Dancing as a Jet was also hard on stage, because we had numbers in both acts.

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 Question:

What ever happened to Mickey Callin? Was he a good dancer? Why did he notmake the transition to play the character Riff in the movie version? Why did he not travel with the company?

Answer: 

Michael Callan opted to go to Hollywood and pursue a film career.  While in Hollywood, he appeared in close to 40 movies and over 60 televisions shows.  For more info on him, check out his site:  http://www.timem.com/starwebs/michaelcallan/

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 Question:

 Of the two, the Broadway version and the movie which gave you the greatest thrill?

 Answer:

Broadway.  Nothing like a live audience. 

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 Question:

You were one of the Dance Assistants on the film.  How/why were you selected?

 Answer:

The three of us, Tommy Abbott, Howard Jeffrey and myself, were selected for having worked with Jerry before. Jerry remembered Maggie Banks from the American Ballet Theatre and knew she had experience working on films, such as Can Can and State Fair. We did not work on specific sections until Jerry left the film. I did most of the mounting of the Dancehall scene then. We knew dancers and brought them in and also held auditions and took the best there was. I had to re-stage the dance sequences with Riff to fit Russ's strengths, tumbling and such. Gina Trikonis could do anything!  She was great!  I also had myself dance with Carole D’Andrea.  We did that section together on Broadway originally, so I wanted to do that again. That sequence was supposed to be with Tucker (Ice), but he didn't mind. I also needed to re-stage for camera angles for Mr. Wise. And I did work a lot with Natalie Wood, which was really a pleasure. She was great to work with. She worked very hard to get it the way Jerry would have wanted.

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 Question:

In the scene right before the rumble, were you really on a tall wall?

 Answer:

Yes, they used a cherry picker to get us up on it.