Bringing Broadway to the Players

  • Kirby Ward teaches choreography to his fellow cast members of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” at Peterborough Dance Theatre on Friday. The show hits the Peterborough Players’ stage next week.  Courtesy Photo/Will Howell—

  • Kirby Ward teaches choreography to his fellow cast members of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” at Peterborough Dance Theatre on Friday. The musical hits the Peterborough Players’ stage next week. Courtesy Photo/Will Howell—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, July 26, 2018 10:28AM

Broadway and West End star Kirby Ward says dancing is the family business.

Ward is choreographing and starring in The Peterborough Players’ The Drowsy Chaperone, which opens Wednesday, Aug. 1.

“It’s a very quick process,” Ward said in the Players’ rehearsal hall last week. “We have less than two weeks to put the show together. … But we get very talented people, who we just rely on their skills to accomplish what we are going to do.”

Ward has been dancing “just about all my life,” he said.

“My father and mother danced. Met in dancing school. … They danced together when they were kids and then after they got married they went on the road with Mae West. My dad danced in her act for a while and then my mom did some shows in Vegas and that’s what they did for a while, then they got to San Diego, raised a family and ran a theatre school,” Ward said. “I started tap dancing with I was six and then I got serious about it when I was about 14, because I saw Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and they inspired me to pursue it further.”

To be a serious dancer you have to study ballet as well, he said, “And then I got into acting and went to school for theatre, started directing and choreographing in Los Angeles, did some films and moved to New York.”

Ward’s career was kicked into high gear when he was cast as Bobby Child in the West End production of “Crazy For You.”

“They cast me out of an open call out in Los Angeles, which was crazy. Flew me to New York and I got the part and I opened the show in London and met the Queen and got to rub elbows with Prince Edward and play tennis with him. It was wild experience, to all of a sudden to be the star of a West End show in London. It was a trip.”

While the part was originated on Broadway by Harry Groener, when the show came to London the creators wanted to make changes and ended up asking Ward to put his spin on many aspects of the musical.

“I am very attached to that show because it really was probably my most exciting theatre experience. … Everything in that show was tailored to work for me,” Ward said. “And now stuff I put in myself is in the script … lines and bits of business I added myself,” Ward said. “So that’s exciting, I’m a little tiny part of the creation.”

After “Crazy For You” he took his West End fame to Broadway to star in “Show Boat” and ”Never Going to Dance.”

This will be Ward’s first production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” but he’s up for the job.

“It’s absolutely in my wheelhouse because it’s a period of dance from the 20s that I’m very familiar with. It’s the Charleston and Flapper era. It’s a very fun, loose, wild and crazy time in our county’s history when it was all about letting your hair down and just bouncing and jumping around like manics and that’s the style of dance it is and that’s the craziness of the show.”

Ward is playing George, the best man.

“So I do a big tap number in the first act. It’s about a wedding and it’s my responsibility to make it go smoothly and of course I don’t do the best job and mayhem ensues,” Ward said.

The cast is filled out with some Peterborough Players regulars, local talent, as well as talent cast at auditions in New York.

“It’s an amazing cast. It’s going to be a great, first class, company of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’” Ward said.

This will be Ward’s fourth Peterborough Players production. Most recently, he and his wife, Beverly Ward, were in a production of “Last of the Red Hot Love rs” four summers ago.