So You Think You Can DanceChoreographer Spencer Liff has been in love with theater since he saw Cats on Broadway when he was four years old. Dance has been coursing through his veins ever since. And this past year he had two hit shows on the Great White Way: Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the revival of Spring Awakening.

In a recent interview, we asked Spencer what he is most passionate about and he replied "Stretching myself and doing things that scare me and that I haven't done before… I'm choosing things that I haven’t done before or what I think might be impossible."

This is precisely why he took on the challenge of choreographing an ASL version of the Broadway revival of Spring Awakening.

In order to stage this show, he needed to learn sign language and work with hearing-impaired actors. He said, "I needed to work with interpreters in translating the language of dance and work with deaf actors who can’t hear music and make an entire two-and-a-half-hour musical out of that. That was terrifying to me. And that has been the most rewarding project that I’ve put out there."

We had the thrill of seeing John Cameron Mitchell the creator of the title character of Hedwig last spring and it was one of the best theater experiences we ever had. During its Broadway run, six actors played the lead role and Spencer worked with each successive actor to make the choreography unique to each one.

He said, "I re-did the show in some small way for every single person."

Spencer originally created the Broadway staging for the show’s first star Neil Patrick Harris. He recalled, "Neil and I worked for months to create his original version of it and that was the blueprint. We changed it a bit for Andrew [Rannells]. We changed it for Michael [C.


Spencer's thrill of a lifetime

Then it was the thrill of a lifetime for Spencer when he got to work with the man who created Hedwig for stage and screen, John Cameron Mitchell. He notes, "John, I re-did the entire show for, because he really wanted something original for himself. I was so honored and enamored to even be in the room with him creating his Hedwig."

He continued, "When we got to John I really wanted to totally give it a fresh look...

He was full out. I've never seen anything like it. And with John, there isn't a single move or movement he can do that isn't Hedwig. Because every image you have in your head of who that is, is him."

In fact, John was so full-out that he hurt himself. Spencer recalled, "He only did that version of the show for two weeks until he injured his knee." Although Spencer was committed to a show in Los Angeles, he Skyped with John almost daily to work out new staging to accommodate a leg brace, a bedazzled crutch, and a stool.

The performance we saw featured John practically immobile for most of the show and yet he still exuded the high-charged energy required to play Hedwig. Spencer noted, "It was its own very special show that you saw that will never be seen again, which I think it makes it even all the better....For my first full Broadway experience, it was unbelievable."

This generation's Fosse?

We ended our interview with Spencer by asking him which pop culture icon he would want to walk in the tap shoes of for one day, and he had a definitive answer."It would be [Bob] Fosse. It would have to be. If I could be in his body and dance like him for one day and have that mind and understand how that brain works for one day… yeah. No question about it."

Based on what we've seen, we think Spencer is well on his way to being this generation's Fosse. To see his current choreography, get tickets to Spring Awakening at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York. Or take in one of the two holiday pantos choreographed by Spencer. A Snow White Christmas is at the Laguna Playhouse. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell – A Pirate Christmas is at The Pasadena Playhouse.