“The Merry Widow” Splash Extra- Meet Clo-Clo, a.k.a. Jen Gorman

Born in Napa, California, Gorman grew up in Boise, Idaho


For some it’s completing the Chicago Marathon…


For others it might be climbing Mount Kilamanjaro


Gorman backstage at the Kennedy Center for a Show Boat quick change with Washington National Opera


But for dancer-singer-actress Jen Gorman--one of the fresh-faced and long-legged Grisette dancer-singers in Lyric’s production of “The Merry Widow”--- the milestone of late has been letting her CPA license lapse.


Gorman as Clo-Clo, second from left. Photo by Todd Rosenberg


Gorman had studied to be a CPA at University of Notre Dame, which she describes as a fun chapter in her life, especially the football games. 


Gorman dancing with fellow "Grisettes" in "The Merry Widow". Photo by Todd Rosenberg


While there is certainly nothing wrong with being a CPA, give broad smiling Gorman even a fleeting look as she performs one of the floozie characters in the Lyric’s production of “The Merry Widow”, Clo-Clo, and you’ll get the sense that she is exactly where she belongs in the world—on the stage. 


When not performing, outdoors activities figure large in Gorman's life. She says her favorite places to hike include the Sawtooth Mountains and Sun Valley in Idaho and Lake Tahoe in California


Letting her CPA license go means that she has to bravely follow wherever her show biz path takes her with no illusion of a plan B. 


Gorman performing in Show Boat at the Kennedy Center with Washington National Opera


If the Grisette performance is any indication, she’ll sail down this path smiling and giving high kicks and pirouettes all the way.


Gorman as a dancing puppet in "The Magic Flute"


If you’ve seen “The Merry Widow” you may remember when one of the “Grisettes” who had just danced a storm says, “"My feet are killing me."  That’s Clo-Clo, a.k.a. Jen Gorman.


Gorman rehearsing with choreographer Renato Zanella in Chicago Opera Theater's "A Flowering Tree". This was Gorman's first opera performance


A veteran dancer in many operas and musical productions (with Chicago Opera Theater in “A Flowering Tree”, at the Kennedy Center performing with Plácido Domingo in “Iphigénie en Tauride”and then in ‘Showboat”, among others), this production of “The Merry Widow” was an exciting breakout opportunity for Gorman to also sing and say a few lines. 


At the opening night party, (left) Renee Fleming with Jen Gorman on the right


The Clo-Clo role was also special for Gorman because it afforded her a chance to work with the highly acclaimed choreographer and director of “The Merry Widow”.  Gorman says, “I am a huge fan of Susan Stroman for many reasons.   Clearly she is hardworking, organized, oozing with creativity, knows how to work with people, and amazingly talented, which of course makes her a phenomenal director and choreographer.  But I also appreciate that she speaks about the need to improve gender equality in theater….


“…I was fortunate enough to see this production of The Merry Widow twice in New York with Renée Fleming, Nathan Gunn, and Kelli O’Hara.   I loved it!  I saw opening night and then went back about a month later so I could take it all in again.  When The Lyric announced its season, I was so excited that it included this production and immediately knew that I wanted to audition for it.  As soon as the audition notice came out, I booked a plane ticket to audition in Chicago!


“…The audition was last May and lasted two days.  The first day we just danced.  The second day we danced three different combinations, showed very specific movements separately (pirouettes and cartwheels), talked with Stro, read lines, and sang…


“…(Clo-Clo) What a fun and fantastic role!  I grew up as a dancer, and I’m developing myself into more of an actor.  There are six Grisettes in the show, and Stro allowed us to develop our own unique characters.  The Grisettes have a song and dance, a bit of dialogue, and staging throughout the Act 3.  My past opera experiences primarily focused on just the dancing so the character development, singing, and lines, have been so fun and exciting!”


Gorman's aerial piece that she created with Shana Swanson, founder of Aloft Loft, through Thodos Dance Chicago's New Dances initiative. This piece was performed as part of Thodos Dance Chicago's repertoire, and since by Gorman independently in New York and on tour


If you have followed dance in Chicago and think Gorman looks somewhat familiar you are right.  She danced with Thodos Dance for three years and also mentions that a highlight of her time here was working with Shayna Swanson, the founder of Aloft Loft, to create an aerial silk solo that she still performs today in New York City, her home when she is not on Lyric stages or traveling.


Considering the core strength and flexibility that all this dance--aerial and otherwise—requires, it simply astounds to learn that Gorman has had a metal rod in her spine since she was 12 when they did a surgical intervention to treat her scoliosis.  Almost demurely, Gorman reports that her doctors had told her to stop doing gymnastics at that time but approved her continued dancing “because they probably didn’t really understand how much I was pushing myself with dance.”


That Gorman has a rod in her spine may surprise but talk to her for just a few minutes and you sense that boundless energy and enthusiasm that will continue to propel her performance opportunities—dancing, singing, acting, film?—why not!


Gorman backstage for Iphigenie en Tauride, starring Placido Domingo, at the Kennedy Center with Washington National Opera


What’s life after Clo-Clo?  All she knows right now is that when the final curtain of “The Merry Widow” falls she will soon hop on a plane to travel for a month in Southeast Asia, a trip she had made by herself before but this time will do with a friend and fellow dancer from her time at the Washington National Opera.


To learn more about Jen Gorman or to keep track of Gorman’s post-Clo-Clo life visit her website .




Photos courtesy of Jen Gorman, unless otherwise indicated.







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