Theater community gets together to help a paralyzed young actor

November 09, 1990|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

MEMBERS OF the Baltimore-Washington theater community are banding together to present a musical revue, "A Step in Time," on Monday at Burn Brae Dinner Theatre on behalf of local actor Rob McQuay, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a swimming accident at Ocean City on Aug. 1.

Proceeds will be donated to the Community Foundation of the Greater Washington Public Assistance Fund to help McQuay and his family defray mounting medical expenses.

McQuay, 28, a professional Equity actor, singer and dancer, has played a variety of lead roles in many area dinner theater musicals.

He starred as Che in "Evita" and had the title roles in "Pippin," "Barnum," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" and was featured in "A Chorus Line," "George M" and other shows.

He has entertained thousands of Baltimore-area children in Kaiser-Permanente's school program, "Professor Bodywise and the Traveling Menagerie."

Three months ago the actor was scheduled to begin rehearsal for a top role in Woolly Mammoth's production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in Washington.

"That was to be his big break," says Toby Orenstein of Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia, who is directing "A Step in Time" (with musical direction by R.L. Rowsey). "Rob did a lot of shows for me," says Orenstein. "He and his wife, Chan, met during 'Superstar' and married during 'George M.'

"Rob is an inspiration to everyone," says Orenstein. "His positive outlook . . . accepting his accident and determining to conquer it and moving on to make something of his life."

The two performances, at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m., will offer a variety of song and dance numbers. The early show will be hosted by WWDC-101's "Greaseman," Doug Tracht, and Walt Starling of W-LITE-FM 94.7 will host the lat show.

The waiters, bartenders and hosts for the evening will be local celebrities, producers, directors and actors. Toby's, Burn Brae, Petrucci's, Harlequin, the West End and other dinner theaters and community groups will be represented.

The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and melodies from the '30s through the '70s will highlight the evening.

Before the Ocean City incident, McQuay and Chan, also a singer-actress, had finished negotiations for the purchase of a house in Catonsville. They have a 2-year-old son, Daniel, and a 2-month-old baby girl, Mary Margaret.

After a three-month stay at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, the actor returned home this week and is now undergoing treatment as an outpatient.

Although wheelchair-bound, McQuay has made excellent progress, recovering the full use of his shoulders, arms and hands.

"I am doing well. They consider me a success story around here," says McQuay in an interview. "I am pretty much independent at this point and can manipulate the wheelchair by myself.

"What I can't do I can instruct others to do for me," he says. "The wave that hit me in Ocean City was unusually rough -- the hurricane was brewing. With that injury to my neck, I should have been completely paralyzed, arms included."

McQuay does stretching exercises to keep in shape. "My legs are not working yet," he says. "I can't work on building up muscles until the feelings in my limbs return. But I'm glad I'm alive. I almost bought it. I'm happy to be home with my wife and children."

His plans include taking a directing class at the Studio Theater in Washington.

"I will be directing 'Godspell' at Western Maryland College next spring," he says. "I am considering writing a book and taking other directing jobs."

He laughs. "I keep telling all the theaters when they do 'Whose Life Is It Anyway?' [the play and movie about a quadriplegic] I am ready to do the role. I've done all the research.

"But right now my energy is focused on recovering."

Tickets, $25 and tax deductible, are still plentiful for "A Step in Time." Tickets can be purchased at most of the area dinner theaters, Olney Theatre, Round House Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, Montgomery College Theater Department and the Washington Jewish Theatre.

Tickets can also be purchased the night of the show at the Burn Brae Dinner Theater, U.S. 29 at Blackburn Road in Burtonsville. For reservations and further information, call 924-4485.

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