If you haven’t felt the theater fever this season quite yet, it’s about time you do. Christmas is upon us and this is the month to be festive and go see a show. Dames At Sea is probably the perfect option, plus it closes January 3rd so this week and next are your last chance to see it. We talked with its iconic choreographer – Randy Skinner – who is responsible for choreographing classic shows from White Christmas on the West End in London and Show Boat at Lincoln Center to the revival of 42nd Street on Broadway. Skinner let us in on changes in theater, his love of 24-hour food spots and working with Ginger Rogers…
You’ve been in the theater business quite some time, are there places to eat and drink in Times Square that aren’t so square? What are they?
That’s a difficult question for me as I’m about as “square” as you can get when it comes to food and dining. I’m a real diner guy so I love Westway Diner. If there were a Denny’s in Manhattan, I’d be getting a Grand Slam breakfast late at night after rehearsals and performances. I love the places that are open twenty-four hours.
Who is the most memorable person you’ve worked with to date? Why?
I was fortunate to work closely with Ginger Rogers in her later years. She was and continues to be such an icon of the cinema that I still pinch myself that I was able to have her in my life. I learned a great deal about stage presence, artistry, and graciousness. She was quite a lady.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was a young dancer and assisting Gower Champion on the original Broadway production of 42nd Street, he took me out to lunch one day and told me to start wearing as many hats as I had the talent and ability to wear. In other words, don’t just rely on one aspect of show business if you want to stay employed and have longevity. Truly great advice if you are able to accomplish that.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?
It’s not exactly bad advice in the typical definition of the word, but I always strive to follow and trust my gut instincts. When others try to persuade me to go against them, it always turns out to be the wrong decision.
What are the best and worst foods for dancers?
The best foods are low-glycemic vegetables and fruits, alongside some protein. The worst foods are the starchy carbohydrates, but we all know they taste so good! I snack on nuts, fruit and protein bars in between meals. One of my favorite “carry along” snacks is a mixture of lightly salted peanuts, raisins, and some chocolate chips thrown in for a treat.
Your favorite thing about New York that hasn’t changed throughout your career…
The endless opportunities to see something artistic every night. NYC offers every kind of entertainment a person could desire.
If you could host a dinner party with any five people living or dead, who would be there? What would you cook?
Fred Astaire, Sigmund Freud, Ella Fitzgerald, Beverly Sills, and Meryl Streep. The only thing I can make is an old fashioned, very tasty meatloaf that was my grandmother’s recipe. I guess it’s the Ohio boy in me. It’s simple but everyone loves it.
*Randy Skinner, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann.