Kenny Ortega’s musical muses

Director's list of favorite film and stage tuners

“Without question, the movie musical that inspired me as a young man to want to dance and work in film was ‘West Side Story,'” Kenny Ortega says. After seeing the 1961 pic at a drive-in theater in his hometown of Redwood City, Calif., Ortega wanted to be George Chakiris. He got himself a pair of black drainpipe trousers and dyed one of his father’s white shirts purple. Other film and stage musicals that rank high on Ortega’s list of favorites:

  • “Singin’ in the Rain”: “The effortlessness in the design of that key scene (in the living room and kitchen) with Gene Kelly, Debbie (Reynolds) and Donald (O’Connor) — the choreography, the camera, the lighting, the scenery — it’s incredible.”

  • Anything by Fred Astaire

  • Angela Lansbury in “Mame” on Broadway: “She brought me to my knees. Her voice, her presence.”

  • “All That Jazz”: “Bob Fosse is a great hero of mine.”

  • Rob Marshall’s Broadway revival of “Cabaret”

  • “Hair”: “Gerome Ragni and James Rado really created a future for the musical with that show.”

  • “Grey Gardens” on Broadway: “Some of the most powerful theater that I remember in a long time.”

  • “Strictly Ballroom”: “I think Baz Luhrmann is the coolest.”

  • “Man of La Mancha”: “I’ve always wanted to play Don Quixote. I might come out of actor retirement some day to play that role.”
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