Couple puts on dancing shoes for roles in Footlite Musicals’ “Holiday Inn”

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Lauren and Grant Russel met during a community theater production of “High School Musical.”

“I played Sharpay and he played Zeke,” Lauren said. “We held hands on stage and the rest is history.”

The two have been together 12 years and have been married for eight years.

The Geist residents are appearing together in Irving Berlin’s “Holiday Inn” from Nov. 19 to Dec. 12 at Footlite Musicals at Hedback Theater, 1847 N. Alabama St., Indianapolis.

At the time they met, Lauren attended Lawrence North High School and Grant attended Lutheran High School.

The last time they performed together was in “Shrek the Musical” at Footlite in 2014. Lauren had a lead role as Fiona and Grant played a guard.

Grant is starting his seventh year as a firefighter for the Carmel Fire Dept.

“It’s been a long time since I performed,” he said. “With the fire department schedule, it’s very difficult to do anything like this unless I take vacation or trade shifts.”

Grant, 30, portrayed Don Lockwood in “Singin’ in the Rain” at Footlite in March 2019.

“I had to really manipulate my schedule to do that,” Grant said.

Lauren, a Lawrence city councilor, performed in the title role of Cinderella at Footlite in late 2019.

In recent years, the couple juggled shows separately to take care of their three sons, Owen, 5, Landon, 4 and Henry, 8 months.

“Due to the (COVID-19) pandemic, our families bound together and said they wanted to see us do something positive,” Lauren said. “Our families really encouraged us to do it.”

Lauren, 31, said the director worked with them to make the schedules fit.

“I’ve been going to work on my regular schedule (through rehearsals),” Grant said. “It won’t be until the show opens that I will request trade dates.”

Lauren said they enjoy the community of people at Footlite.

“They are a great group of people and professional directors,” Lauren said. “There is a lot of opportunity to showcase ourselves. They do a lot of really awesome shows that we believe in. Grant grew up dancing and he’s done this a lot longer than I have. He’s performed since he was 5 years old. He learned how to tap and would travel around tap dancing. I started doing theater in high school.”

The musical is based on the 1942 movie “Holiday Inn,” which features “White Christmas,” among the Berlin songs. Grant plays the role of Ted Hanover, who was played by Fred Astaire in the movie.

“Holiday Inn” is not performed as frequently as other holiday movies.

“That’s one reason why I wanted to do it,” Grant said.

Lauren plays Linda Mason, who was the love interest of Jim Hardy, played by Bing Crosby in the movie.

“Grant and I do a lot of ballroom dancing and it’s a lot of fun,” Lauren said. “We’ve enjoyed so much to reconnect that way. I never tapped with him, so I have a lot of catch-up to do. He’s really good. There’s a number in the show where he tap dances with fireworks, so a fireman tap dances with fireworks.”

Grant said rehearsals have become almost like a date night.

“It’s difficult to find time to get away with the wife and share time with the boys (with) my schedule,” Grant said.

Grant said he and “Holiday Inn” choreographer Linda Rees learned how to tap dance from the same instructor. Rees is the owner and artistic director of Dance Magic in Noblesville.

For more, visit footlite.org.


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