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5 Questions: Lynne Taylor-Corbett Purrs for “Cougar: The Musical”

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Fighting a midlife jag you are? Brenda Braxton, Mary Mossberg and Babs Winn in Cougar: The Musical.
The purrfect photo is by Bitten By A Zebra.

Who remembers the hand-wringing among Broadway journalists 20 or 25 years ago — those sad, sad years after the likes of Gower Champion, Michael Bennett, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins and Ron Field left this earth? It was a bleak time, we can recall, what with AIDS and age claiming far too many of the great director-choreographers of the era. There was a heavy feeling in the industry — one often cited like a moan directly by the critics — that beyond Tommy Tune and one, two, three, four others, the long period of the dominant director-choreographer, that hybrid birthed by the likes of Michael Kidd in the 1940s and 50s was ending.

From the vantage point of 2012, such a view was sexist, chauvinist, stupid and, most important, inaccurate; the triumphant, ongoing careers of Susan Stroman, Graciela Daniele and Lynne Taylor-Corbett, among others, can testify to that fact. (Oh, and Tune is definitely not dead.) Of these, Taylor-Corbett’s style is maybe the least flashy and the most impressive: her range of interests and choice of projects is distinct yet wide; her work has a very pure versatility of spirit. True, most Main Stem wags remember that she earned two Tony nominations for Swing! back in 2000, but that is a cog in Taylor-Corbett’s spinning wheel: her resume boasts theatre productions, ballet projects and choreographing for film (including a certain Kevin Bacon flick you may have heard of…oh, just do yourself a favor and check out these videos).

But forget our clumsily over-respectful blather. Here is the bio from Taylor-Corbett’s website:

Lynne Taylor-Corbett is known for her work in theatre, dance and film. She was nominated for 2 Tony Awards and a Drama Desk for direction and choreography of Broadway’s “Swing!” and for two American Theatre Wing Star Awards for it’s National Tour. She also choreographed Broadways’s “Chess” and “Titanic”. Off Broadway, she directed “Theda Bara and the Frontier Rabbi”, Marie Jones’s “Women on the Verge…” at Irish Arts, “Darlene Love: Portrait of a Singer” at the Bottom Line, “20th Century Pop” at the Rainbow and Stars, and was the original director of the Korean import, “Cookin’” at The Minetta Lane.

She directed a play entitled “Your Simone” at The Culture Project; “Boxes” and “Asking For It” at the New York Fringe Festival. Regional shows include “Tintypes” at Hartford Stage and The Old Globe, “Opal” at George Street Playhouse and The Lyric Theatre, “Flight of the Lawnchair Man” for the Goodspeed Opera House, “Hats” in Chicago, and “Girl’s Room” starring Donna McKechnie and Carol Lawrence soon to open Los Angeles.

Her dance works have been commissioned by New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet and numerous companies throughout the world. She is the resident guest choreographer of The Carolina Ballet.

Broadcasts of her work have been seen on “Live From Lincoln Center”, “Live from the San Francisco Opera House” and on UNCTV. Her films include “Footloose”, “My Blue Heaven”, “Vanilla Sky” and “Bewitched”. Most recently she and her work, “Chiaroscuro” were featured in “Water Flowing Together”, a documentary on Jock Soto of the New York City Ballet shown on PBS Video and directed by Gwendolen Cates….

She is a proud member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and even prouder to be the mom of actor Shaun Taylor-Corbett.

The point now, ladies and gentlemen, is to ask you to adjust your spanx and re-adjust your jockstraps, for it is time to focus on Taylor-Corbett’s latest project, an Off-Broadway hit called Cougar: The Musical.

No, no, no, no — there’s no need to growl, or lick your paws, or make cheap puns about changing your stripes. This musical, written by Donna Moore (and starring Brenda Braxton, Mary Mossberg and Babs Winn, and with Danny Bernardy playing, er, the field), has won some of the more positive reviews of the fall season so far. No doubt Taylor-Corbett contribution has given the piece shape and soul — two of her hallmarks.

Cougar, which has been running since Aug. 26 at St. Luke’s Theatre (308 W. 46th St.), performs Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. And don’t be late — those girls want everyone in their seats within a whisker of the curtain.

Frankly, if you can’t fall in love with this, who can?

And now, 5 questions Lynne Taylor-Corbett has never been asked — and a bonus question:

1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Mmmmm…well, perhaps: “How do you think that being a woman affects your interpretation of text?”

2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
That would be easy: “Are choreography steps numbered? In other words, do you say, ‘Let’s do number 36, followed by 14, 23 and say…19.’” I’m paraphrasing, of course.

3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
“Why do you do this knowing that you could quite possibly never make any real money?”

4) It seems pretty clear what women might get out of seeing Cougar: The Musical. What will men get out of it (other than ideas…)?
One young man said, “I never saw what women went through in terms of their self-esteem and relationships. It will make me see things differently.” It’s all about teaching.

5) Of the choreographic and musical styles you’re working in on this show, what is the one that is most conducive to communicating sensuousness, and why?
Wow, I would categorize most of the movement as “staging”. The number I think of as being most sensuous is, “Easy”. The movement between the man and woman is subtle; it’s what they don’t do that is tantalizing.

Bonus Question:

6) The idea of the cougar is only fair: older men have squired younger women around since the ink on the Bible was still wet. Still, is there something vaguely vengeful about a cougar? If so (or if not), how do you address it in the show?
I think there is an element of social change that is akin to the Feminist movement. Why can’t we be/do things that are acceptable for men to be/do? In Cougar the Musical, we show that — sure, go ahead — but what really matters is deep connection. If that isn’t there, it’s all just an exercise.


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