Liza Gennaro is not only the child of a Broadway veteran, but also one herself. Daughter of the Tony-winning choreographer Peter Gennaro, she has built a formidable career as a choreographer in her own right with such Broadway credits as the revivals of The Most Happy Fella and Once Upon a Mattress.

In addition to her love of dance and work in the theatre, she has devoted herself to scholarship and education. In the summer of 2018, she will assume the position of Associate Dean at Manhattan School of Music and Director of its Musical Theatre Program – the first musical theatre degree program in New York to be offered at an independent conservatory and only the second such program in the country. She previously taught at Barnard College, Princeton and Indiana University and is currently working on a book about Broadway dance for Oxford University Press.

Stay Thirsty Magazine was pleased to catch-up with the very busy Liza Gennaro for this Conversation about her work and her new role at Manhattan School of Music.

STAY THIRSTY: What motivated you to accept the position of Director of Musical Theatre and Associate Dean at Manhattan School of Music (MSM)?

LIZA GENNARO: Manhattan School of Music, with its one-hundred-year history of excellence and its location in New York City, a veritable hub of musical theatre, is an ideal institution to develop a world-class musical theatre program. The excellent faculty, administration and staff at MSM and it’s location in NYC the epicenter of Musical Theatre made my accepting the position a positive and exciting decision.

STAY THIRSTY: How vigorous is contemporary musical theatre as a discipline and is it a field where graduates of musical theatre programs can truly launch a career?

LIZA GENNARO: Today’s contemporary musical theatre is exploding with fresh ideas, possibilities and opportunities and musical theater graduates are entering a thriving art form. Broadway is booming with record high attendance and employment opportunities on Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, tours (union and non-union), cruise ships, webcasts, musical theatre festivals, summer stock, workshops, developmental labs and theme parks are plentiful.

STAY THIRSTY: How has your personal work as a choreographer, on and off Broadway, informed you about how best to teach students?

LIZA GENNARO: I grew up in musical theatre and have worked as both a performer and choreographer. I understand how the industry works from the inside out and I am committed to supporting young musical theatre artists and offering excellent training that reflects the classic musical theatre canon as well as the current musical theatre scene. Staying in step with trends while honoring and being expert in the past is essential to student’s success.

STAY THIRSTY: You come from an illustrious theatre family with an iconic, Tony Award-winning father and a brother in theatre management. Did you ever think about another career or did you always know that you were going to work in dance and choreography? What broadened your horizons to branch out into education?

LIZA GENNARO: I have always danced, I love musical theatre and very early on made it my career. My transition from performing to choreographing was quite natural and being behind the scenes suits me better than the spotlight. I have a great passion for the history of musical theatre through the lens of theatre dance and I’m currently working on a book with Oxford University Press, Making Broadway Dance. My interest in history and writing as well as my love of teaching dance led me into education.

Liza Gennaro

STAY THIRSTY: What will it feel like returning to New York in your new role at MSM?

LIZA GENNARO: Great! I’m very exciting to be coming home and taking on the leadership of musical theatre at MSM.

STAY THIRSTY: What are your goals for the next year for the MSM Musical Theatre Program? What areas do you plan to strengthen?

LIZA GENNARO: I’m interested in developing curriculum to prepare student for the current musical theatre scene. I’m also developing an exciting season of seven shows which will be include a new musical development in collaboration with the Fred Ebb estate.

STAY THIRSTY: In the past, many Broadway legends have interacted with the students in the MSM Musical Theatre Program. Do you plan to continue to bring in veterans of the musical stage to work with students? If so, what value do you see in that type of interaction?

LIZA GENNARO: Yes I will continue to bring seasoned professionals, as well as casting directors and talent agents, to talk to and work with our students. One of the great opportunities of being in NYC is access to the highest echelon of the musical theatre industry and it is terrific for MSM students to be in an educational environment enhanced by the most exceptional artists in the field.

STAY THIRSTY: You are currently working on a book about Broadway dance for the Oxford University Press entitled Making Broadway Dance. What are your reasons for writing this book and do you see it fitting into an academic curriculum?

LIZA GENNARO: My book is a rigorous interrogation of musical theatre dance -- how it evolved, the choreographers who made it an integrated, narrative form, how dance functions in musical theatre and the methodologies of creating dance in musicals. A book like mine does not exist and I feel it will be a useful addition to musical theatre scholarship.


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.