Directing and Choreographing Through The Pandemic, Keith Andrews is Crushin’ It!

By Kimberly Dijkstra

The multitalented Keith Andrews began dancing as a senior in high school and after college started working professionally. He toured around the world as a performer before shifting his focus to directing and choreography, which he’s been doing successfully for the past 20 years at regional theaters all over the country.

“I work really hard to try to give them as close to the feel of a Broadway show as possible,” he said.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Andrews directed a number of musicals on his home turf, including more than 20 shows at The Gateway Playhouse in Bellport. Such a part of the Gateway family, he even got married there.

Andrews grew up going to midnight showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and wound up having a blast directing and choreographing the musical version at The Gateway.

“To actually direct that show which was such a part of my high school experience…it turned out to be a fantastic show,” he said. “People just went wild for it.”

He has been thrilled to be able to direct shows he’s always loved, and has also had some unexpected opportunities.

In 2007, Andrews directed the world premiere of “Cold As Ice,” a musical on ice starring Olympic Gold Medalist Oksana Baiul, something he never thought he’d do. Since then, he’s done several other figure skating productions.

He is also developing a new musical called “A Wall Apart” with Graham Russell, of the ‘80s rock band Air Supply.

“I listened to his music growing up and I can actually call him up and say, ‘what’s going on?’ or ‘what are we working on now?’” Andrews said, amazed at the paths his career has taken him down.

2019 was one of Andrew’s busiest years ever. He directed 12 shows in 13 months and had a 1-year-old baby at the time. Then in spring of 2020, the bottom dropped out.

“In about a week, I lost five jobs that I was supposed to have coming up over the summer and then into the fall,” Andrews said. He also had a case of COVID-19 early on.

The pandemic was a shock to everyone, but especially to the theater world. He immediately started wondering how any of his friends in the theater community would survive.

“That was the biggest challenge of the whole thing,” Andrews said. “But theater people have to be resilient. You have to constantly be looking for work and be really flexible.”

He counts himself lucky to have been working at the American Musical Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York as the director and choreographer of their student showcases.

“It’s kept me working through this time and still directing, which is pretty amazing,” he said.

Typically, Andrews would spend less than half of his year working for AMDA. “But then last year happened and AMDA became my job,” he explained.

“What’s interesting is it made us all have to go in a completely different direction,” Andrews said. “I’m a theater and stage director, and all of a sudden I had to learn as much as I could incredibly quickly about film because all of a sudden everything we were doing was video.”

There was a lot of learning as he went – figuring out how to make things visually interesting on a screen and how to teach a student a dance when they’re not in the same room together.

Amid the uncertainty and fear about the pandemic, Andrews focused his efforts on the positive. Late last spring, he started holding regular Zoom sessions with his director friends so they could check in with each other and how they were doing.

“I spearheaded this thing where I got this group together and we would meet every month and talk about how to survive and how we think the changes will be when we get back in theaters,” Andrews said.

They helped each other cope with things like losing their health insurance and other challenges.

A brand-new venture – Andrews has been writing his own show. It will be a take on an old-fashioned type of musical that will use standards to move the plot forward.

“It’s been an interesting and long process, but I’m loving it,” he said.

While the impact of the pandemic on theater has been significant, signs point to theater recovering soon.

“I believe in theater, I believe in the message of theater, and I believe that theater plays an important role,” Andrews said. “It’s such an easily pushed aside part of our lives. It’s the first thing that will go when something like this happens.”

He continued, “But when it’s back, I think it’s very important for people to connect to one another and their emotional selves.…After all of this Netflix watching and TV, people will be thirsting to go back to the theater to see something live.”

This summer, fans can see Andrews’ production of “Million Dollar Quartet” at Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Utah, through August 7.

“I did the show there years ago and they’re bringing it back because now their theater has opened up,” Andrews said. “I’m excited about it. Things are starting up again. I feel it.”

 

 

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