Community bids farewell to a Milford luminary Broadway choreographer Larry Fuller is leaving for Palm Springs
Larry Fuller last month with dancers in the new revival of "Evita"
By Linda Fields MILFORD — He danced in his first Broadway show, "West Side Story," when he was just 19, and recently returned from Johannesburg, South Africa, where he helped in the successful revival of the original production of "Evita." His long career has been illustrious, yet Larry Fuller will rarely brag. He choreographed hit Broadway musicals from "Funny Girl" to "Evita" and "Sweeney Todd," but that’s only a partial list. Ask him about it, and you’d be well advised to put some time aside because the resume is long and impressive. To the chagrin of his many friends in this area, Fuller is about to move to Palm Springs, Calif., from his home in Milford, Pa. — and it seems every day someone is throwing him a good-bye party. Early in his career, Fuller worked with Jack Cole, known as the Father of Theatrical Jazz Dance, and appeared as a weekly dancer on television variety shows with Perry Como, Gary Moore and Ed Sullivan. Greater opportunities were just around the corner for the young professional. “I wanted to be something more than a dancer,” said Fuller. He got his chance when he collaborated with Carol Haney in "Funny Girl" and was asked to recreate her work after Haney died just three months after the show opened. He then took over and added his own work for the musical’s first big national tour. “That gave me my foot in the door as a choreographer,” said Fuller. “From that came the London company with Barbara Streisand. I had never been out of the country, so it was very thrilling.” On a summer tour of "Funny Girl," he added directing to his credits. “I had studied acting and learned how actors work, so it paid off for me," he said. "The show was a huge hit.” It was during his time in Vienna that Fuller met the producer Hal Prince, who asked him to help cast and direct "Candide." “I almost fainted but I took a gulp and said okay, Voltaire in German, why not?” he said. Fuller also worked on the movie version of "A Little Night Music," which Prince directed. Fuller admitted to being a bit star-struck. “I worked with Elizabeth Taylor, Hermione Gingold, Diana Rigg," he said, "I thought, ‘This is amazing.’” The relationship with Hal Prince led Fuller to choreograph five of his shows: "On the Twentieth Century," "Evita," "Sweeney Todd," "Merrily We Roll Along," and "A Doll's Life." To Fuller, it is Prince’s willingness to collaborate that pays off “big time,” “He really involves you completely in the concept," he said. "You talk through every single scene, every number — what are we trying to accomplish here, what should happen starting with A? How do you get to Z and carry the story line? It helps immeasurably because you know before you ever get into the rehearsal studio exactly what you’re aiming for. So many directors see the choreographer only as someone who does the steps.” Fuller received a Tony nomination and two Drama Desk award nominations for "Evita," which he will tell you is still his favorite. “The power of the show is in the ensemble," he said. "If they don’t give their viscera, the epic-ness isn’t there. The power is really in their hands.” Fuller admits he is pleased to still be in the game, having been asked to go to South Africa where the revival of "Evita" opened to rave reviews. In a rare self-congratulatory comment, he revealed... “I got to work with the company for several hours — and improved it.” To those who know him, there is no doubt.