Artistic journey from The Muny to The Fox
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 27, 2009 - For the first time since he was 5 years old, Brandon Bieber isn’t performing this summer at The Muny. But it’s for a good reason.
The 25-year-old St. Louis musical dancer earned a spot in the cast of the traveling Broadway show Mary Poppins. And his streak of summer performances here will continue – the Disney production is coming to The Fox from August 13-30.
I caught up recently with Bieber, who’s with the show in Cleveland. He said he’s excited to come back to St. Louis, where his family still lives and where he lived from the time he was 3 years old through high school.
The youngest of three siblings, Bieber remembers as a child watching his sisters in dance class and saying, “I can do that just as well as they can.” He’d dance in the aisles at church or alongside his sisters at the dance studio.
Bieber doesn't come from a theater family -- no one in the extended family performed for a career, he said. That changed with his generation. One of his sisters is a Broadway actress; the other a dance instructor at St. Louis University High School, Bieber’s alma mater. “We’re just crazy flukes in the family,” he says.
Bieber began performing at The Muny at age 6 and estimates he’s done nearly 50 shows there. He credits a Muny producer for convincing him that he could make a career out of his theater talents. He also credits his Center of Creative Arts (COCA) instructors, who helped him hone his skills and introduced him to a musical theater program at the University of Cincinnati.
While in town this summer, Bieber will teach a musical theater dance class at COCA that’s arranged through the center and the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation. It’s scheduled for August 14 and is intended for intermediate and advanced students in middle school and high school, as well as working dancers who are adults. He’ll be teaching the supercalafragelisticexpialadocious dance number. As a member of the Mary Poppins ensemble, Bieber has to spell the word correctly for every performance.
Bieber is based out of New York but has recently done shows in San Diego, Phoenix and Seattle, among other cities. He’s performed in High School Musical at The Muny, as well as White Christmas and other shows elsewhere. While rehearsing for White Christmas recently, he learned about a spot that had opened up in Mary Poppins.
“During my lunch break, I hopped in a New York cab, drove 20 blocks in heavy traffic and showed up halfway through the teaching of a dance combination,” he recalls. He sang, he danced and he won the part.
St. Louis is the third stop for Bieber and the cast of Mary Poppins. The job is open-ended, which he considers a blessing. “There are talented people out there with no work, so I consider myself lucky. I’m doing what I love to do.”