My career in theater

My career in dance started when I was in my teens and took a job as a summer apprentice at the Summer of Musicals in Sullivan, IL. I worked seven summers there and eventually moved to NYC to study ballet at the American School of Ballet. 

After completing my studies at the American Ballet School, my first dancing job was with the Amerian Savoyards, an American company dedicated to the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan.

From there I moved to Chicago to continue studying and got my first job in choreography at the Goodman Theater School where I choreographed what was their first musical, a production of “The Boyfriend”.

In Los Angeles I joined a touring nightclub show called “Chips Off The Old Block” that featured performances by the sons and daughters of famous movie stars. 

I knocked around for a while and finally landed a gig with a show called Hits Of Broadway that toured the States at the hands of Bob Simpson out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It played supper clubs in hotels. One fun place was Reno, Nevada. But what marked a turning point in my life was in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Condado Beach Hotel where I gracefully managed to break my ankle. Onstage no less. 

While on the mend, I realized I loved the Spanish ambience and decided to take a year off and discover the real Spain. I went to Madrid where I fell in love… with the country.

Recovered from my broken ankle, I took any job that came along. Mostly in television as an ensemble dancer. 

My big break came from a Chilean director, Daniel Bohr. He decided to do a “pirate” version of Hair and asked if I would choreograph it. Sure, why not? An official production was banned by the censors (this was the late 60's and Franco was still setting the scene). It was decided to do the show in a new disco called Piccadilly and call it The Piccadilly Revue. A total rip-off of Hair. We started out by lip-sinking to the recorded music. Then someone had the bright idea to add a real band and the next thing we knew we had a postage-stamp sized stage production. It lasted 50 performances. One evening we turned up at the disco to find it surrounded by police and the place cordoned off. It seemed that the wife of some minister had been at the performance the night before and was scandalized at the nude scene: all the actors stand up nude and the lights go out. She was probably annoyed that it was so quick she didn’t have time to “size up” the situation.

But that set the ball rolling: I was then the new hot American choreographer in Madrid. There was a moment I had six shows running in Madrid at the same time. Not without problems: I was called into the office of the fascist trade union and told by the president of the dancers union (whose wife was a French choreographer) that as a foreigner, I should be careful because I was taking work away from Spaniards and I just might get the crap beat out of me some night. Never happened. 

Shows I did in Madrid included four productions of Godspell and the first musical revue as the producer by the multi-talented Lina Morgan. Add to this years of fashion shows and industrial productions both national and international. I also designed and choreographed "America, America", the first multi-media stage show in Madrid. During this time I was also contracted to choreograph an off-Broadway musical directed by John Michael Tebelak in New York City that lasted one glorious week.

I continued to work in the theater until 1982 when I changed careers and became part of the culinary scene in Spain.

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        © Richard Stephens Ely 2019