Joe Grandy’s passion for dance began as a toddler at the Becky Kern Dance Studio in Belleville. His story mirrors the character Mike in “A Chorus Line,” who sings about his early start in “I Can Do That.”
“My older sister was in dance class, and I would go with them, and sit on my mom’s lap,” he said during a phone interview on the road from Newport News, Va. “I would get really bored, and jump up and go to the back and try to do what they were doing. I was maybe 2 at the time. One day, the teacher was trying to get the class to do this step, and nobody was getting it. The teacher said: ‘Can anybody do this step?’ I jumped down and said ‘I can,’ and did it.
“Becky came up to my mom, and said: ‘He’s mine!’ You couldn’t take dance until you were 3, so I started at age 3. I loved it so much,” he said. “After I saw ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ that was the end for me. I knew what I wanted to do.”
Grandy is currently singing and dancing up a storm in the touring production of “White Christmas,” the stage adaptation of the beloved classic movie, which will be at the Fox Theatre Tuesday through Sunday.
It is his third tour as part of the ensemble, and first time performing at the Fox Theatre.
The show is about two Army buddies putting on a show in a picturesque Vermont Inn, just like the 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. It features the great American songbook of Irving Berlin.
“The show is so much fun. We get to feel Christmas all over again every night. The last number looks like a snow globe on the stage. It really gets people into the holiday spirit,” he said. “You get a warm, tingly holiday feeling. It snows on stage and in the audience, too.”
Grandy praised Randy Skinner, who directed and choreographed the tour. Skinner was nominated for a Tony, his third time, for his work in the 2008 Broadway production, which was co-written and produced by Paul Blake, former executive director of the Muny.
“He choreographs in the style of Fred Astaire and those great MGM movie musicals, so brilliant and so beautiful,” he said.
“What is not to like about this show? It’s got such well-constructed dance numbers, they keep building, like ‘I Love a Piano.’ The dance numbers are just wonderful, and the show is touching and has humor. It really connects to each and everyone in the audience. And it has the great music of Irving Berlin – you can’t go wrong with that.”
The son of Laura Grandy, of Caseyville, and Michael Grandy, of Belleville, he is very excited about seeing his family.
“I will get to see my nephew. He’s walking now,” he said.
And he is excited about staying in his sister’s old room, “which is bigger than mine.” His sister, Jules Hunter, is married and is an English teacher at Belleville West High School.
“A lot of family and friends are coming to the show,” he said. “I am happy to have grown up in Belleville. It was a sweet place to grow up in, a nice little town. I feel fortunate to be a Midwesterner in a big city.”
During his school days at Grant Middle School in Fairview Heights and Belleville East High School, Class of 2004, he continued to take dance lessons with Becky Kern and at COCA. He took part in school musicals and plays.
Grandy performed with the Muny Kids, Muny Teens and ultimately, the adult ensemble for three summers. As a professional, his first show dancing on the big stage was “42nd Street” the summer before college, earning his Actors Equity Card.
“I love that show. It’s funny, touching, and there’s a ton of dance numbers,” he said.
Another favorite was “Singin’ in the Rain,” which he also performed at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City.
Grandy was accepted into the ultra-selective program at Syracuse University, which was ranked third in the nation for musical theater at that time. He auditioned for admission, and was one of only 10 boys and 10 girls chosen. He earned a bachelor of fine arts in three years, graduating in 2007.
“By my second year, I was done with all my dance credits. I went to summer school, too,” he said.
He has worked in musical theater ever since, honing his craft. But dance is his first love.
“There is no other feeling like it,” he said. “When you have a great piece of choreography, you feel it through your whole body. It’s overwhelming. I am grateful I do this for a living.”
He performed summer stock at Stages St. Louis for few years, starring as Prince Charming in the children’s production of “Cinderella,” and as several funny characters in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” in 2012.
One of his favorite roles is barnstorming aviator Billy Buck Chandler in the George and Ira Gershwin musical, “My One and Only.” He was the understudy at Stages.
At the Goodspeed (Opera House) in Connecticut, he also understudied Billy and performed the role three times, the first two times in one day — at the matinee and evening performances.
“It’s dear to my heart. The lead was sick. I had had no rehearsals. They had no costumes for me, I had to be fitted that day. The show was so much fun to do,” he said.
He eventually played Don in “A Chorus Line.”
“It was a theater in the round, so we called it “A Chorus Wheel.’ It was so much fun dancing every night,” he said.
One of the high points of his career so far was working with the legendary Tommy Tune, Tony-winning choreographer, performer and director, in “Lady Be Good” last February at Encores!, an off-Broadway musical theater series at the New York City Center. Tune is one of his idols, and originated the role of Billy Buck Chandler on Broadway in 1983.
“He’s such a sweet, incredible performer, such a special person,” he said.
“Encores specializes in pulling out old scores and old shows, and doing them as a living archive as to what went before on Broadway. It was the first show George and Ira Gershwin wrote together. The song ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ is in it.”
A cast album was released, and Grandy is part of the singing and tap-dancing you can hear.
“It was my great luck to be there,” he said.
Grandy said he feels privileged to work on the tour of “White Christmas,” which ends Dec. 28. Even though he won’t be home for Christmas, he said the cast makes the holidays merry and bright.
“I love this tour. This cast is just a great group of people to be with,” he said. “Even though we miss the holidays, we create such a family with each other. We do fun stuff on the road. We do Secret Santa,” he said.
After the tour ends, he heads back to New York City. He currently lives in an area known as Hamilton Heights.
“It’s the life of a performer. You’re in limbo until you get your next show,” he said. “But I get to live my dream. I can’t imagine any other life.”
- 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; matinees at 1 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday.
- Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
- Tickets: $25-$100. www.fabulousfox.com; MetroTix at 314-534-1100 or Fox box office