News Column

Decatur dancer in demand as a choreographer in U.S. and Europe

November 10, 2013


Nov. 10--Josh Rhodes is on Broadway to stay.

The 42-year-old Decatur Eisenhower High School graduate is the choreographer of "Cinderella" at the Broadway Theatre and "First Date" at the Longacre Theatre in New York City. He is also the choreographer of "The Landing" off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre.

"Cinderella" is the breakthrough for the former Broadway dancer. It's the refreshed Rodgers and Hammerstein 1957 TV musical with several new twists.

Rhodes auditioned for the job, staging two of the show's numbers, renting a studio, bringing in an arranger and coaxing some of his friends to dance for free. The result: He was nominated for an Astaire Award in choreography, and for Drama Desk and Outer Circle Critics awards.

The success of "Cinderella," which opened in March, puts Rhodes in demand:

n He's going to Washington, D.C., in November to choreograph "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum."

n On Dec. 3, he directs the SeriousFun Gala Celebration in London.

n In January, he directs "Spamalot" at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle.

n In the spring, he choreographs "Sweeney Todd" at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Rhodes began choreographing five years ago, taking a leave of absence as a dancer in "Chicago" and then returning. "It gave me the stability of a Broadway contract and the chance to be creative on the side," he explains.

Earlier, he performed on Broadway in a series of hit shows: "Fosse," "Bells Are Ringing," "Sweet Smell of Success," "Urban Cowboy," "Man of La Mancha" and "Boy From Oz."

"I wanted to be in the theater from day 1," Rhodes remembers. At the age of 6, he staged puppet shows with his sister Jill, entertaining family members.

"... I saw the touring production of 'My Fair Lady' in Chicago," he said. "I honestly think it changed my life."

He danced in kindergarten and in a Theatre 7 kids' play. In the summer, he had roles in nine shows at the Little Theatre-on the Square in Sullivan, including three years of Children's Theater. He could sing, dance and act.

After performing in musicals at Centennial and Mound Middle Schools, at Eisenhower he played King Arthur in "Camelot." In 1989, Rhodes received the first Herald & Review fine arts award in music.

He studied musical theater at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and after graduating in 1993, headed for New York.

En route to becoming a Broadway hit show choreographer, he worked at the New York Musical Theatre and in various regional shows. He was the assistant choreographer on the national tour of "The Drowsy Chaperone," and last year choreographed "My Fair Lady" in Sarasota, Fla.

"I was a dancer, so I have a lot of empathy for dancers," Rhodes said. "Dancers are the greatest, they work so hard. Sometimes dancers are the most talented people on the stage."

"People like to work with him, he's a 'giver,'" praised his mother, Judy.

Dance magazine gives Rhodes a "can't miss" rating.|(217) 421-7981


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