When you or I watch “Billy Elliot” we marvel at the dancing, the energy, the predictable but uplifting story line.
Gina Rattan watches actors’ entrances and exits. She listens to decibel levels.
And she does it in rehearsals and performances, night after night, week after week after week.
Gina is “Billy Elliot”‘s resident director. She’s responsible for maintaining the Broadway show’s consistency. She keeps it true to its original creative vision. She trains new cast members.
And — because there are 4 Billy Elliots — she spends much of her time handling a quartet of 11-year-old boys.
The Westport native loves every minute of it.
Her road to Broadway began with Staples Players. She assistant directed main stages, One Acts and studios. Director David Roth gives his students plenty of responsibility, and Gina reveled in the opportunity to learn all about theater, develop strong bonds and produce great shows.
After graduating in 2004, she earned a BFA in directing at the University of Michigan. Like Staples, it combines a superb theater program with strong academics. Gina studied every aspect of performing, from a worldly perspective.
She moved to the Old Globe in San Diego, working on Shakespeare and musicals. She got jobs in New York, and with “Little House on the Prairie: The Musical.” Last winter she returned to Staples, helping Roth with the One-Act Festival.
In May — just a couple of weeks after interviewing for it — she started her “Billy Elliot” gig. It’s her best, most intriguing — and demanding — job so far.
It was a baptism by fire. Gina learned the show — the timing, tempo, blocking, cues and “emotional temperature” that spell the difference between success and failure — at the same time she critiqued it.
It’s a huge undertaking. There are 51 cast members, and the staging is complex. Fortunately, Gina says, “I’m not responsible for the dancing.” Two resident choreographers handle that task.
She’s got enough on her hands. The 4 Billys — each boy does 2 shows a week — must deliver consistent performances, though all are different people.
The Billys respond well. “They’re terrific kids,” Gina says. “They’ve become a pack. And everyone once in a while one of them says something that makes me think ‘Wow, you really are 11!”
“They run all over the place,” Gina notes. “I have to look at the big picture, and make sure it all fits together.”
The rest of the cast and crew have been great too. They share their knowledge of “the life of the piece” — something Gina missed by not being there from Day One.
“Collaborating with colleagues, working with kids, learning how it all fits together — that’s what makes this such an amazing show,” she adds.
Every day, Gina adds to her skill set. Whatever she does next, her experience as resident director has given her career a major boost.
So what’s next?
“I have no idea,” Gina says. “My contract is for a year. Right now, I just know I have rehearsal in 20 minutes. And a long day ahead!”