Dance and theatre queen lands TV job
Mary Giattino is not only known as teacher/owner of East Patchogue’s Stage Door School of Dance, but also for being a Broadway choreographer, associate choreographer and performer, who has worked on big-name shows including the Tony Award-winning first national tour of “Fun Home,” Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and the first national tour of “Billy Elliot” on Broadway. And now, we can add one more accomplishment to her list.
Over the summer of last year, friend and co-choreographer/director Danny Mefford was asked to choreograph all the theatrical sequences put on within NBC’s newest drama, “Rise.” He immediately requested Giattino’s help; she accepted with excitement and soon became the show’s associate choreographer.
“Mary is a national treasure as far as I’m concerned,” Mefford said of their partnership. “She’s razor smart, terrifically talented and one of the funniest people around. I can’t imagine working on ‘Rise’ without her.”
“Rise,” which will air with a special premiere after the “This Is Us” finale on March 13 and then take its 9 p.m. time slot for the remaining episodes, is from the producers of “Parenthood” and “Hamilton.” According to NBC’s website, the show is a heartening new drama about finding inspiration in unexpected places.
“I never heard of it before,” said Giattino, referencing the book, “Drama High,” by Levittown native Michael Sokolove, on which the series is loosely based. “[But] I jumped right into it and fell in love with the characters. It is such a rich drama. [Executive producer and showrunner] Jason Katims and [producer] Jeffrey Seller are incredible at connecting to the characters and bringing a lot of depth.”
The plotline, according to NBC’s website, is about a dedicated teacher (Lou Mazzuchello), who sheds his own self-doubt and takes over the school’s lackluster theater department, where he then shocks not only the faculty and students but the entire middle-class town. The cast includes Josh Radnor, Rosie Perez, Damon J. Gillespie, Marley Shelton, Rarmian Newton, Ted Sutherland, Amy Forsyth, Casey Johnson, Taylor Richardson, Joseph Tippett and Shirley Rumierk.
Mefford and Giattino’s job was an interesting one; coming fresh off the Broadway scene, they were tasked with choreographing all the scenes of the production of “Spring Awakening,” put on within the show by the fictional high school’s theatre program. Basically, she explained, their job was to choreograph the fake production held within the series itself.
“They wanted true theatre people to make it real,” Giattino said, “and Danny is a genius and gifted director/choreographer.”
And so, over the past four months, she, alongside Mefford, has been putting in a lot of hours on set in New York City to complete the 10-episode project. “I put in very long hours,” she said, but happy to do so. “We were there at 6 a.m. and didn’t leave set until 10 at night some days.”
It was an intense taste of her first time in television production. But, she said, that hasn’t deterred her and she looks forward to pursuing more TV jobs in the future.
“I fell in love with TV and film and want to do more of it, but theater and dance will always be my first loves,” she promised. “It really came at the right time in my life when I needed it most,” she added, noting that her late husband, Rick Styles, would have been proud of her. She said she and Styles always supported each other’s projects and he always was excited when it involved celebrities. “In fact, he would have been the most ecstatic,” she said of Rick. “He was always sweet in that way.”
“Everyone out here [in East Patchogue, Patchogue, Bellport] knows my story and what happened a year ago with his passing,” she continued. Working on set was something, she said, that brought her back to life as something she could finally look forward to again. “It was very healing to work on something but not knowing enough about it,” she added of her TV endeavor.
Still, the community and Stage Door family have been supportive of her. “I couldn’t have gotten through this without them,” she noted. “I found my passion again, and I hope I can be a role model in a way for the kids that with love and strength you can find your passion again, no matter what unexpected curveballs life throws at you.”
Aside from her hard work and dedication to the show, the Advance would be remiss if we didn’t ask about meeting the stars of the show, of which she casually mentioned her new friendship with “How I Met Your Mother” star Josh Radnor and filling in as a stand-in for “Moana” star Auli’i Cravalho while she attended school.
She also went into some details about the show: Radnor, playing teacher Lou Mazzuchelli, she said, takes over the theatre program to produce “Spring Awakening,” a racy show for the small town of Scranton, Pa., in which the series takes place.
“I saw the first three episodes,” she admitted. “It was so good. It’s not a ‘Glee’ or ‘Fame.’ It’s a real drama with a lot of real-life aspects.” However, she couldn’t offer much more after that, but did say it’s a must-watch, offering something for all ages and genders.
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