In 1992, when Falsettos was done originally on Broadway, Spencer Liff was only seven. “I was already working professionally as a performer,” he told me recently, “in The Will Rogers Follies. But I was too young at the time to have seen Falsettos.” (March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, which make up Falsettos, were produced by Playwrights Horizons in 1980 and 1989 and were enthusiastically received.) 

When James Lapine, the director of both the original production and the current incarnation at the Walter Kerr, talked to him about being the show’s choreographer, Liff read the script and listened to recordings. “I fell for it right away,” he said.  “I realized I could be a fresh pair of eyes on the material.”

Liff also realized that he could be part of the larger effort to bring Falsettos to a new generation. “Judging by the large numbers of young people who have been showing up during previews, I think we are succeeding. They are attracted by the social-media buzz about the show, and by its performers, and all that is great.”

Liff, who grew up in New York and is now based in Los Angeles, where for the past eight years he has been an Emmy-nominated resident choreographer for the TV series, “So You Think You Can Dance,” had another reason for wanting to work on Falsettos.  “I wanted to bring it to the attention of young gay men, who aren’t usually familiar with the time frame in which the show is set. I wanted them to have a reality check on what happened in the 1980s. When I watched HBO’s The Normal Heart with a group of them not long ago, they were completely shocked at what people went through then.”

Liff has been involved with large-ensemble shows and TV series containing splashy dance numbers. How does choreographing Falsettos, which has a small cast and is a sing-through not a dance-off, compare? “They are two different art forms,” he replied. “On ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ I work with the best dancers in the country so I use a different skill set.” He added: “With Falsettos, everything must revolve around the storytelling. The line between what the director does and what I do isn’t as clear as it is on something grander.”

I asked Liff to break down the creative process for “I’m Breaking Down,” which Trina, portrayed by Stephanie J. Block, has been performing every night to rousing acclaim. (It is my pet theory that she has been tapping into the subconscious of what the country is going through with the 2016 election. But I digress.) “As with all the songs,” Liff said, “our director talked Stephanie through the song’s meaning, and her acting choices. Then she and I talked through the movement. With an actor that skilled, I don’t give everything in specific steps, as I might with a big dance number. The process is much more organic.”

By contrast, for his work on the recent Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Liff developed more exact steps. “I worked on that show for months, and every move was choreographed.” Liff made adjustments for the six performers who did Hedwig on Broadway and for those now doing it on tour, including Lena Hall. “During the Falsettos rehearsal period, I would work mornings with Lena and then come to Falsettos.”

After Falsettos opens on October 27, Liff will return to the West Coast and spend the month of November working on A Cinderella Christmas for The Pasadena Playhouse. It is a holiday entertainment known as a panto -- a staple in the UK but fairly unfamiliar to American audiences. But the effect on him of Falsettos will probably linger. “It has been done with a level of class all across the board,” he said. “I’m lucky to be a part of it.”

Brendan Lemon is the editor of