Casey Nicholaw And The Return Of The Story Ballet

As a director and choreographer, Casey Nicholaw is understandably known as a man who can keep the laughs coming. His recent Broadway hits like The Book of Mormon, Something Rotten!, Aladdin, and The Drowsy Chaperone have all been praised for their gut-busting setpieces, like musical numbers about dancing omelets or scenes with genies who sing Whitney Houston songs.

But hijinks aren't exactly appropriate for Tuck Everlasting, the musical adaptation of Natalie Babbitt's classic children's novel. The story – about a young girl who discovers a family that can live forever – is richly emotional and often deeply moving, filled with questions about the endurance of love and the necessity of loss. To bring it to life, Nicholaw, who is directing and choreographing, must use a different vocabulary than the one he employs for comedy.

This is particularly true of the dancing in the production, which begins previews on Thursday at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre. "I have to choreograph what's right for the show, and when something's a comedy I have to choreograph with comedy in mind," Nicholaw says. "You can't live in dance for that long if it's a comedy because you can't stop the momentum to just dance. So I always have to think of comic hooks. It's almost like changing channels: You have a section that has an idea, and then you do another one that has a different idea and you keep it all moving forward."

But Tuck Everlasting, he says, requires movement that's more lyrical, romantic, and narrative-driven. "We're using dance to convey [the show's theme of] time, as well as the tone and feelings of the show."