Heading for Ontario's Stratford Festival this summer? If your summer isn't complete without a weekend at North America's largest repertory festival, be sure to grab two on the aisle (if you can) to see Cincinnati native Michael Gruber playing the singing, dancing romantic lead in Cole Porter's Anything Goes.
Gruber grew up in Indian Hill where his stage was the diving board. A national competitor, he didn't turn to musical theater until 1984, when he was on a diving scholarship and majoring in vocal performance at the University of Michigan. "The Olympic trials came and went and I didn't qualify."
He came home and completed his education at University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music.
Michael Gruber stars wiith Elizabeth DeGrazia in Anything Goes in Stratford, Ontario.
Things couldn't have worked out better, he says. He was in the legendary 1984 CCM production of The Rocky Horror Show, had his first professional gig aboard Showboat Majestic when it was under CCM management and earned his Equity card performing in Carnival at Playhouse in the Park in 1986.
The diving did come in handy in his early career, Gruber says. His first two Broadway jobs were in the final cast of A Chorus Line when the venerable show closed its 15-year Broadway run and as a dragon acrobat in Miss Saigon. "I got both roles because I could tumble."
Gruber's Billy Crocker has been praised by Canadian critics. It's his fourth time in the role he enjoys in the musical about gangsters, young lovers and a nightclub singer aboard a ship. The loony and light show also puts a spotlight on some of Porter's snappiest numbers.
He's finding working in rep in the pastoral, small town Stratford Festival "rejuvenating and a pleasant surprise."
The Stratford Festival continues into November, Anything Goes plays through Oct. 31. For reservations, information and a 2004 visitor's guide call (800) 567-1600 or visit www.stratford-festival.on.ca.
'Of Thee I Sing'
Cincinnati native Ron Bohmer had a couple of shorter-than-hoped-for off-Broadway runs last season with revues The Thing About Men and The Joys of Sex. He'll spend autumn starring as John P. Wintergreen in the classic musical political satire Of Thee I Sing at Paper Mill Playhouse, just west of Manhattan in New Jersey. The show runs Sept. 8-Oct. 17.
Where are they now?
College-Conservatory of Music grad Kristy Cates is taking time away from the Broadway production of Wicked this month to star in the new musical Hell Hole Honeys at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's Music Theater conference in Waterford, Conn. A showcase at the nationally acclaimed O'Neill can smooth the road to regional theaters and New York for plays, musicals and their creators. Honeys sends a TV producer into the prison system.
If you're a fan of 2003 CCM grad Angel Reda, simply astonishing as used and abused Queenie in The Wild Party, she'll tour through town this fall in Chicago (Sept. 21-Oct. 3 at the Aronoff). It's another bad luck character - she sings and dances behind Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly on Death Row.
For Chicago reservations and information call 241-7469.
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