Broadway Standout Jess LeProtto on His Dance Idols, Dream Roles, and Pet Peeves
Photo by James Jin, courtesy Jin
Jess LeProtto's fiery energy and jaw-dropping jumps and turns have earned him a place in the Great White Way spotlight. LeProtto started singing and dancing at age 5, and performed in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in Nashville, TN, as a kid. He made his Broadway debut in The Boy From Oz in 2003, followed by stints in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Bye Bye Birdie. In 2011, he made it to the Top 8 on "So You Think You Can Dance." It was his role in the original cast of Newsies in 2012, though, that truly solidified his trusted-veteran status. Since then, he's performed in On the Town, CATS, and Hello, Dolly! Currently, LeProtto dances in the Broadway revival of Carousel, which opened earlier this year. Read on for The Dirt.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Ben & Jerry's lol
Who's your dance crush?
Georgina Pazcoguin: She's the cat's meow! I love her!
What's your go-to stress reliever?
What are you most nervous about?
Who are your dance role models?
Gene Kelly: Watching him sing and dance in the rain.
Michael Jackson: Captured all the soul and groove in dance.
Baryshnikov: Combined dance and acting that I never saw before.
John Selya: Movin' Out changed my life!
Al Blackstone: The way he dances is movement for the soul.
What are the most-played songs on your playlist?
"New York State of Mind," Billy Joel
"Follow Your Road," Seawind
"Everyday Rapture," Sherie Rene Scott
"Peg," Steely Dan
What are your most-watched TV shows?
"Seinfeld," "The Muppet Show," "Stranger Things"
What are your favorite dance movies?
West Side Story, Singin' In the Rain, White Nights
What's something no one knows about you?
I know all of the lines to the movie Center Stage. ("Get out of my class!")
I also attend Pace University part-time, getting my BFA musical theater degree.
What can always make you laugh?
Dancing mascots, physical comedy, Martin Short
Do you have any nicknames?
Jessifer, Jessman, Jester
Who would play you in a movie?
J.T. Church from "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation"
Have you had any embarrassing moments onstage?
Fell into the orchestra pit in Newsies during "Seize the Day," and climbed back up in time to hit the final pose of the number. I also ripped my bright green pants right down the middle in Bye Bye Birdie.
What's your advice for young dancers?
Research: There is so much to learn and read about. YouTube is a great tool for that. Always observe, take in and appreciate how other dancers interpret choreography. Be adaptive in the elements surrounding the movement (music, other actors onstage, setting).
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Italy, Paris, Australia
What's the last thing you do before you go to bed?
Have a cup of tea with a little after-show snack
What's your favorite book?
Lucky Man, by Michael J. Fox
What non-dance things would you consider yourself expert at?
Garage Band, paddle ball, awards-show trivia
What would you be if you weren't a dancer?
Teacher, orchestrator, arranger
Do you have any hidden talents?
I play piano, keyboard, and drums. Just started learning the bass, too!
If you could work with any choreographer, who would it be?
Twyla Tharp, Jerome Robbins, Michael Kidd, or Fosse!
What are your pet peeves?
People walking down the street glued to their phones who don't know where they're going
What are your dream roles?
Cosmo, Singin' In the Rain
Eddie, Movin' Out
A-Rab or Action, West Side Story
Mike, A Chorus Line
Little Chap, Stop the World: I Want to Get Off
Anything originated by Joel Grey
What's your biggest fear?
A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Dirt with Jess LeProtto."