'Nothing Is Stopping Us': A Day in Lorin Latarro's Life as a Choreographer and Mother | Playbill

Special Features 'Nothing Is Stopping Us': A Day in Lorin Latarro's Life as a Choreographer and Mother

Playbill followed choreographer Lorin Latarro around as she juggled rehearsals for two different Broadway shows: The Who's Tommy and The Heart of Rock and Roll.

Lorin Latarro in rehearsal for The Who's Tommy Heather Gershonowitz

Serving as choreographer for two brand new musicals in the same season, with both opening just weeks apart—The Who's Tommy on March 28 and The Heart of Rock and Roll on April 22—is already an impressive feat. But there is a third role that Lorin Latarro plays, one that is never far from her mind: mother. “I love being a mom. There’s just not much sleep,” she admits with a laugh.

Latarro squeezed in an interview with Playbill during her hour-long lunch break between Tommy and The Heart of Rock and Roll rehearsals. On this chilly February day, with Rock and Roll in the morning and Tommy in the afternoon, Latarro spent her lunch break running errands around Times Square. 

As Playbill’s photographer Heather Gershonowitz and this reporter followed the choreographer to Target, where Latarro browsed the crafting and stationary aisle to pick out some dry erase markers for her kindergarten-age daughter. She says she’s always grabbing something during the workday, especially with all the birthday parties of classmates that come up. When some Crayola window markers are pointed out to her, she half-sighs, half-chuckles at the thought of the clean-up: “Oh, I could never do that to another mom.”

Lorin Latarro picking up items for her daughter in Target Heather Gershonowitz

Though window markers and other messy creative materials may entail a lot of clean-up at home, Latarro’s creativity is fully unleashed in the rehearsal room. “Being a mom has made me more creative. Playing and teaching a child is full of active creativity. That free-flow part of my brain is never shut off. ‘Free play with parameters’ is essentially the shared definition of choreographing and mothering,” says Latarro (whose previous credits include Waitress and Mrs. Doubtfire).

A prime example of Latarro tapping into that inner child creativity through choreography had already attracted attention ahead of the show's opening: a tap number performed on strips of bubble wrap in The Heart of Rock and Roll. With part of the show taking place at a box factory, Latarro says that bubble wrap was already a prop within the landscape of the show, and the idea came about just by playing around with it: "The bubble wrap was there, and we just started dancing on it, and we thought, 'Let's do this as a scene.'"

Company of The Heart of Rock and Roll Vi Dang

An unlimited fuse of creativity is certainly necessary for working on two nearly opposite musicals at the same time—with Tommy exploring the depths of darkness and trauma, and The Heart of Rock and Roll being more of a light feel-good jukebox show (though both feature a bombastic rock score, from The Who's Pete Townshend and Huey Lewis, respectively). 

For Latarro, switching back and forth hasn’t brought any whiplash; it’s been rejuvenating. “Huey Lewis is so full of joy, and his songs are already such vehicles for storytelling,” she shares of The Heart of Rock and Roll, which boasts numerous big dance numbers to accompany its big score. "You will walk out of there happier than you've been in a while."

By contrast, Tommy dives into one of the most challenging stories for a mother to confront: seeing their child endure severe trauma at a young age and regress because of it. “This work is so incredibly intense,” she says, noting that she and director Des McAnuff often discuss how to approach the show from their perspective as parents. “He has a daughter also, so it’s the work of parenthood that we’ve really tried to humanize in this story.”

With The Who's musical originally being a concept album, Tommy features no dialogue: only lyrics, which resemble prose. With that, Latarro's choreography serves as a vital vessel for communication in the show, filling in the gaps and speaking to audiences without words. The show opens with five-minute overture, with a wordless dance number that showcases how Tommy's parents met during World War Two.

Then, Act I closes with a massive, ensemble-driven number, "Pinball Wizard." Tommy, who had been long overlooked and bullied, is now the leader of the pack—the onlookers onstage move as one as they frantically follow him. "One of the big things we're doing in Act I is conveying to the audience what this miracle must have felt like to witness," Latarro says, referring to Tommy mastering the game of pinball despite being (believed to be) deaf and blind. "It's this almost religious, ecstatic, hyper-teenage experience of watching a kid almost walk on water." 

Then, in Act II, as Tommy's fame continues to grow, Latarro's choreographic style evolves to demonstrate the pitfalls of the spotlight, shifting from jubilant to unsettling. "The ensemble plays the part of what happens when somebody becomes a leader, and as that movement grows, you'll see a more multiplied and militaristic style."

Lorin Latarro and company of The Who's Tommy in rehearsal Heather Gershonowitz

Regarding dance style and form, Latarro also enjoys the dichotomy of working on both pieces at the same time. “Both shows stretch my creativity in different ways. Tommy is full of precision, and The Heart of Rock and Roll is buoyancy and '80s classics! It’s been fun to toggle between styles and be reminded that all dance styles share many fundamentals,” she shares towards the end of our discussion, now sitting on the first vacant piano bench she could find in a rehearsal room. 

The hour spent on-the-go with her makes one thing clear about the celebrated choreographer: although some might spend their off-time winding down, Latarro is always ready for the next move—all while holding the full-time position of being a mom.

"What I really try to do is be completely focused, wherever I am, and keep my phone down. When I'm at work, I give it 1000 percent, because if I'm going to be away from my family, I'm going to make it count. And when I'm with my daughter, I really try to be present with her," says Latarro. (In a follow-up interview, Latarro said that the day after Who's Tommy opened on Broadway, she spent the early morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her daughter—certainly echoing her earlier statement about not getting much sleep. )

But for Latarro, keeping busy is what keeps her afloat. "It's healthy for me, because it gives me a full life, and it keeps my energy up," she says. 

Lorin Latarro and company of The Who's Tommy in rehearsal Heather Gershonowitz

Latarro shares that staying present at home not only helps her daughter to get what any child needs from a mother, but helps keeps Latarro grounded so she's not letting the stress of her musical jobs overwhelm her. "I keep learning about the world through my daughter's eyes, as opposed to just staying myopically focused on theatre," she says.

Throughout the conversation, Latarro emphasizes one thing above all else: that not only is it possible to stay as booked and busy as a mother as she is, but that it's a thrilling, rewarding adventure. It's one she encourages women to embark on with confidence, and to speak up for their needs in the rehearsal room—like if they have to duck out during work to run a parent errand.

"Motherhood in this industry is really possible, and nothing is stopping us from doing this," she says. "I don't care what people think. I don't worry about it. I just worry about my own family and do what's right for us. And this is working for our family very well."

See Latarro's full afternoon accompanied by Playbill in the gallery below.

Photos: Lorin Latarro Balances The Heart of Rock And Roll, The Who's Tommy, and Being A Mom

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