Tapping to Broadway Dream: A College Park student will perform in a show he fell in love with years ago.

May 14, 1998|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Until last month, dance honors in the Isaac family of Annapolis were held by father Lafayette "Skip" Isaac, who won a twist contest in high school.

Then Kelly, 18, the only child of Skip and Karen Isaac, went to New York to audition for the tap musical "Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk." That was April 14.

He got an immediate call-back and was asked to return April 23.

"We were ciphering," he says of the second audition. Ciphering is a kind of tap competition in which two dancers trade off rhythms and try to outdo each other.

Savion Glover, the show's creator and star, who was watching the auditions, threw a chair at the cast member ciphering with Isaac.

"I guess I beat him," says the young tapper. "But I still don't know what I did."

He and his mother were on their way out of the Ambassador Theater when she stopped to use the backstage pay phone. "I was standing there, tapping in my tennis shoes," says Isaac. "And then they started yelling for me."

He spent the next few hours tapping with three more young men. "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't even know if it was a good thing or a bad thing."

It was a good thing. The casting director sent a videotape of Isaac's audition to George C. Wolfe, artistic director of the Public Theater and producer of "Bring in da Noise," the biggest hit the Public has had on Broadway since "A Chorus Line."

Wolfe, who was in the hospital recovering from appendicitis, liked what he saw. And tomorrow, Kelly Isaac leaves for New York to join the company.

At first, he and two other new dancers will be "covers," learning several roles to be ready to step in for anyone who's sick or injured or needs a day off, said Carol Fineman, a spokeswoman for the Public Theater. But they'll also be ready whenever there's a vacancy in the cast.

For Isaac, it's a dream come true. "He's on Cloud 922," says Mary Slater of Edgewater, his dance teacher for the past seven years.

Isaac's father cleans buildings and is a fitness trainer at Merritt Athletic Club in Annapolis. His mother is a librarian for the Anne Arundel County public library system. When their son, at age 3, fell in love with a tap dance routine by Emmanuel Lewis and Ben Vereen on the television comedy "Webster," they might have thought it was a passing interest.

But Kelly asked for dance lessons in earnest and has studied ever since. He just completed his freshman year as a theater major at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he continues to work with Slater, an adjunct member of the dance faculty.

He has been a "Bring in da Noise" devotee since it opened in 1996. Vincent Bingham, another of Slater's students, was a member of the original company, and Isaac went to see him in the show. He ended up seeing it three times in New York, all eight performances when the touring company was in Washington last fall and eight more times in Los Angeles, where he went on his spring break.

"You don't see too many shows that are as purely tap as this one, and it also tells a story," he says. (The show skims through African-American history using virtuoso tap as its medium.) "And it seemed that everyone had so much fun in it."

Pub Date: 5/14/98

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