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SUU Alumnus Nominated for Joseph Jefferson Award

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SUU theatre arts and dance graduate Rhett Guter garnered a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Best Choreography for Drury Lane Theatre’s production of West Side Story, which performed from January to March 2015.

Guter’s award was one of the 13 Jeffy award nominations for the theatre and was one of three Jeffy nominations for West Side Story, which Guter not only choreographed but also appeared as Riff, the leader of the Jets. In addition, the show also featured SUU alumna, Lillian Castillo, as one of the Shark girls. 

Guter said of his award-nominated choreography, “Much of the inspiration was from Jerome Robbins' original choreography. He was a master and the original West Side Story is a true masterpiece. I believe it would be a disservice to stray too far from its original aesthetic. Of course there's a little Gene Kelly in there too, but there always is in my choreography.”

He began his choreographic career while still a student at SUU in the College of Performing and Visual Arts’ production of The Wizard of Oz. Since then Guter has choreographed Utah Shakespeare Festival productions of The Music Man and Anything Goes, as well as Drury Lane Theatre’s current production of Peter and the Starcatcher. In Starcatcher, he also plays the roles of Slank, Hawking Clam and is understudy for Black Stache. He previously played the role of The Boy in Utah Shakespeare Festival’s regional theatre premiere of the show.

Guter has also appeared in Billy Elliot! (Older Billy) at Drury Lane Theatre; Brigadoon (Harry Beaton) at the Goodman Theatre;Gypsy (Tulsa) and Follies at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; A Chorus Line (Al),The Music Man (Tommy Djilas), and Cats(Munkustrap) at The Paramount Theatre. Rhett has toured with the International company of West Side Story as Action. His regional credits include The Music Man, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Diary of Anne Frank, Cyrano de Bergerac and Dr. Faustus (Utah Shakespeare Festival); West Side Story, Macbeth, Curtains and Les Misérables (California's PCPA/Pacific Conservatory Theatre).

SUU associate professor of theatre, Peter Sham, said of Guter’s nomination, "Rhett's success is no surprise to me at all. He is one of the few people, let alone students, that has had and continues to have a profound and lasting impact on my life. In my heart I believe he is one of the very special talents that grace the world every so often, like a Gene Kelly, whom he admires greatly."

The Joseph Jefferson Awards (The Jeff Awards) are given annually by a volunteer non-profit committee to acknowledge excellence in theatre in the Chicago area. Founded in 1968, the awards are given in tribute to actor Joseph Jefferson. Award recipients are determined by a secret ballot.