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Baltimore Native Swings into 'Spamalot'


How can one forgot the great song from "A Chorus Line" sung by Mike (played by Wayne Cilento).  Mike was asked why he started dancing.  He talked of his mother taking him along to dance class with his sister Rosalie every Saturday. He was four. And he'd sit there all perky and "…One morning sis won't go to dance class. I grab her shoes, and tights and all…hell, I can do that, I can do that!"

Well,  Robbie Roby started going with his sister Errin at the age of TWO to Baltimore's "Anita's Dance Studio" and hasn't stopped dancing since. "I literally grew up in the dance studio. I had so much energy".

He also enjoyed watching his Aunt Mary Roby who was very active in local community theater performing with the likes of F. Scott Black and the Dundalk Community Theater.

Mary would later teach at the Carver Center for Arts & Technology where she was a choreographer and directed "Anything Goes".

It was Aunt Mary who finally convinced Roby to try summer stock when he was 15. The show was "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". "I loved it…it  was magical!" He was hooked.

At Loyola/Blakefield High School, he began acting in his junior year. He was in "The Fantasticks" and "Pirates of Penzance". During the summers he was in "Little Shop of Horrors" and "110 in the Shade" (soon to be done at the Roundabout Theatre in New York with Audra McDonald).

Towson University followed where he doubled majored in dance and elementary education. He got his degree and then decided to go to New York and "see what would happen".

It was only TWO WEEKS later after his second audition that he had his first tour in Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Starlight Express". So it was off to Biloxi, Mississippi to attend "Starlight Express Boot Camp" for four months. The producers rented a roller skating rink and 25 young actors learned how to roller skate. "There were lots of injuries. At one point I had sprained my right hand, fractured a bone on my left wrist so I was double-casted for two weeks."

Roby related how they rehearsed during the day and performed at night. Since he was already a gymnast, he was used to tumbling, but NOT on skates. But he did it! It was not long between his student teaching at Owings Mills Elementary School to traveling the country for a year and a half. He longed to perform in his home-town of Baltimore, but the tour didn't make it.

After doing regional theater in North Carolina ("Beauty and the Beast" and "Fiddler on the Roof"), a musical about the Empire State Building called "Empire", he was offered a job to teach dance in Bermuda. Not a bad gig for the four winter months in 2005. But he realized had to be back on stage so it was back to NYC.  After his next audition, he became the dance captain in another Webber musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" with Patrick Cassidy. After he learned the Arlene Phillips choreography, it was his job to teach the moves to new members of the tour and to make sure the dance numbers were kept fresh.

He was excited about finally playing before his hometown friends and family when "Joseph" was scheduled for Baltimore. His father Robert Roby, Jr. made the investment of buying 40 tickets for friends and family. Who knew what would happen next. Two weeks prior to his performing in Baltimore, he was offered the position of Dance Captain for the Las Vegas production of the Baltimore inspired hit musical "Hairspray" by choreographer Jerry Mitchell. Roby's Dad was obviously disappointed about this chain of events but happy for his son to be able to help establish the show in Vegas. He began rehearsals there in January, 2006 and the show opened in February.  But when the closing notice was posted, choreographer Casey Nicholaw nabbed him for the Assistant Dance Captain role in the tour of "Spamalot".

Roby's Dad never misses an "Opening Night" with his son. So it was in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Roby first saw his son in "Spamalot"

Roby has been waiting patiently for his chance to perform in Baltimore and his Dad, step-mother Bernice and his Uncle Herb were in Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre on Wednesday night, March 21 to see his inaugural Baltimore performance in an Equity production.  He's also enjoying living at home in Parkville, quite a change of pace from the typical hotels on the road.

Roby is now the Dance Captain and a "swing", the most difficult part in any cast. He must know the parts of each male member of the ensemble and be able to go on at a moment's notice. "I love being a swing, love this situation. I have to know all the parts for the six knights. And as Dance Captain, I have to know EVERYONE's parts, including the women…the choreography of  19 parts."

How he remembers all this is beyond my comprehension.

He related one evening, he was in the back of the theater and noticed that fellow actor Kevin Crewell did not make it back on stage when he should have. Kevin had the misfortune of having his foot run over by the wooden rabbit. So Roby immediately ran back stage, put on his costume, and was on stage within five minutes. The show didn't miss a beat.

He's having a blast performing in this major hit of a musical. "It's the most well-received show I've ever been in, the energy is amazing, the laughter…We're like miniature celebrities on the road. I get so much joy out of it.

He and the rest of the cast are really enjoying performing at the Hippodrome. "We love how close the audience is to the stage. We can feel their excitement".

When he left Baltimore for New York, he had two dreams. The first was to perform in a  Broadway show. The second, and maybe just as important, to perform in his hometown of Baltimore. "I almost did it with "Joseph" but it didn't work out. But this week is one I'll always remember. It's hard to perform for family…You feel the pressure…all the money spent on dance classes, voice classes…it was all worth it. But once the show starts, I have no problem after that first number. It was less than five years ago, it was me watching Broadway performers here. Now, finally, I get a chance to be mesmerized recognizing people's faces in the audience…seeing people I grew up with. It's a dream come true.

Robbie's Dad has once again bought a block of 40 tickets for family and friends for the Saturday matinee, March 25. Bearing no complications, the Roby family and his extended family will be screaming their lungs out from their orchestra seats, cheering on the local boy who had dream and is living it.  Robbie…enjoy the moment!!

"Spamalot" continues at the Hippodrome until Sunday, March 18. For tickets, call 410-SEAT.

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