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Andrew Lupp continues love affair with Chicago musical productions

Actor Andrew Lupp currently starring 'My One Only' Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire. Photographed Tuesday November 20 2012 Lincolnshire. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Actor Andrew Lupp, currently starring in "My One and Only" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Photographed Tuesday, November 20, 2012, in Lincolnshire. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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‘My One and ONLY’

WHEN: Through Jan. 6

WHERE: Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire

TICKETS: $40-$48

INFO: (847) 634-0200;

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Updated: January 1, 2013 6:04AM

Andrew Lupp is a thoroughly modern 21st century throwback of sorts — a song-and-dance man who can serve as Chicago’s very own entry into that long-cherished American musical tradition whose most distinguished practitioners include Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, James Cagney and yes (in an act of Astaire worship), even that border-crossing ballet star, Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Though light years removed from the fame of those men, Lupp — now starring in the Marriott Theatre production of “My One and Only,” the dance-driven, Gershwin-infused musical — cuts every bit as fleet, graceful and stylish a figure on stage as they did. And at 47 — an age by which many dancers have long since hung up their tap shoes — he continues to knock out eight shows a week with the stamina and technique you’d expect from someone half his age.

In the role of Capt. Billy Buck Chandler, the romantically distracted 1920s aviator (and Texas hayseed) who falls for an English aquacade star, Lupp sings and dances up a storm, whether splashing his way through an elaborate duet with his “one and only,” or going beat-for-beat with tap master Ted Louis Levy.

“I’m not in denial, but from the physical standpoint I still feel 23,” said Lupp, who played Billy for the first time in 1995 at the now-defunct Candlelight Dinner Playhouse. “And from the mental standpoint — well, I just never stop to think that I CAN’T do it. Plus everything I love comes together in this show — the romance, the Gershwin songs, the chance to showcase all the old movie musical dance styles I grew up with. I’m livin’ the dream.”

An Ohio native, Lupp showed up at ballet classes at age 14, was instantly given a scholarship, and began heading to class seven days a week. By the time he graduated high school he was dancing with the Dayton Ballet. He got his first big break in musical theater (and made his first appearance in Chicago) as part of the national touring company of “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’.”

A perusal of the Sun-Times’ archived reviews serves as a reminder that Lupp left a mark on every show in which he appeared — whether as the second youngest Jet in “West Side Story” or jilted lover in “Brigadoon” (both at the Marriott), or the leads in “Crazy for You” (at Candlelight) or “Singin’ in the Rain” (at Drury Lane, where he played Cosmo Brown).

One of the more remarkable aspects of Lupp’s resume, however, is the six-year hiatus he took from 2003 to 2009.

“I married young, had three kids, and divorced,” said Lupp. “And I just totally left the business to build a career in sales and marketing inVirginia, California and Seattle, Wash., focusing on my other passion — games, from ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ to action heroes and board games. For six years the only tap dancing I did was in a glass-walled elevator with a marble floor in an office building where I worked.”

In 2008, as the economy sputtered, Lupp found himself jobless, and without a college degree — something he regrets, but his dancing career began early. So he returned to Chicago, and to the theater — “the one thing I’ve always loved and been really good at.”

“My kids were living in Illinois,” recalled Lupp, who has since remarried, and is now the father of a 19-month-old son, as well as a 21-year-old son involved in music, and a teenage daughter and son. “Tammy Mader [who directed and choreographed “My One and Only”], hired me for the Drury Lane production of ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’.”

And he was back. Among the actor’s most notable “return” roles was that of Alfred P. Doolittle in Jim Corti’s production of “My Fair Lady” last season — the inaugural musical at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Not only did Lupp dance up a storm as Eliza’s hard-drinking, philosophical Cockney dad, but he displayed a more powerful singing voice.

“That was never a role I’d have thought of for myself,” he admitted. “But doing it taught me that I could grow into a part I never thought I could do. And I’ve been so lucky — listening to and learning from the masters over the years, including Larry Yando, Rob Lehman, John Reeger, the Muellers, Doug Peck, Michael Mahler. I’ve been surrounded by great artistry.”

From Doolittle it was on to playing a wildly somersaulting Le Fou in the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s lavish production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Mader first worked with Lupp as a fellow dancer back in the Candlelight Theatre days.

“I’ve always been impressed by how much of himself he brings to the stage,” she said. “And he has grown even more special as he ages. He is so genuine, with such an innate sense of old school movie musical style. And he brings such humor and humanity to everything he does. We danced together last season in the Marriott’s ‘White Christmas’ — and I can tell you, as any woman who has ever danced with him also will, that he is a dream of a partner.”

As for the future, Mader and Lupp have begun talking about another possible collaboration — a production of “Top Hat,” a stage version of the celebrated Astaire-Rogers 1935 RKO musical with an Irving Berlin score that is currently on the boards in London. Yes, more blissful song-and-dance.

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