Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | 2 a.m.
If You Go
- What: “Stomp Out Loud”
- When: 8 p.m. Sundays through Fridays, 7 p.m. Saturdays
- Where: Planet Hollywood
- Tickets: $59 to $99; 785-5000
Beyond the Sun
Keith Middleton shoots through the empty Stomp Out Loud Theater doing a fair imitation of the Road Runner eluding Wile E. Coyote.
Not bad for a man who was almost killed in a car wreck in January.
Middleton recalls the crash. It was midday on a Tuesday. The car in front of him stopped and he stopped. “Then I heard screeching in the back, looked into the rearview mirror and saw a car fishtailing toward me and felt the impact,” he says. “I wake up and my car is sliding to the left and stopped. Everything in the car was wrapped around me, literally — seat, dashboard, console.”
He was pushed into oncoming traffic and hit a second time.
He suffered cracked ribs, bruised lungs, a concussion, injuries to the knees, shoulders, back.
“Performing in ‘Stomp’ all these years helped,” Middleton says. “I was in good physical condition.”
He was out of commission for almost three months, finally returning to work last week — just in time for the celebration of the first anniversary of “Stomp Out Loud” on Thursday.
Middleton has a lot to celebrate in addition to surviving a car wreck, returning to work and the upcoming anniversary.
For one thing, he’s a performer who has had a steady job for 13 years, joining the “Stomp” cast in New York in 1995.
For another, he married fellow cast member Stephanie Marshall (now Middleton) shortly after moving to Las Vegas last year to begin rehearsing for “Stomp Out Loud.” The Middletons tied the knot on Valentine’s Day 2007.
(Another couple in the local production — Coralissa and Ivan Delaforce — are married. There are eight married couples in “Stomp” productions around the country.)
“We got engaged three years ago in New York,” says Stephanie Middleton, who has been with the company for 12 years. “We said we were going to elope, just because we didn’t want to put up with hassles. But we didn’t want to run away to Vegas — we were thinking tropical isle.”
Fate stepped in.
Both were added to the Vegas show, the local version of “Stomp,” which has been around since the early ’90s.
The essence of the production is the same as the one in New York — musical sounds coming from everything from garbage cans to brooms. But the Vegas production has a larger cast that performs in a larger theater (1,500 seats as opposed to about 400 seats). The set and some of the routines are different. So the new cast spent four months rehearsing.
On Feb. 13, the day before Valentine’s Day, Keith and Stephanie were chatting as they rehearsed.
“I was talking about how I hate Valentine’s Day because of how commercial it is,” says Stephanie, who is a principal performer as well associate rehearsal director. “I said to him, ‘I know you love me, so don’t get me any gifts because it’s just a racket.’ He said, ‘Well, do you want to get married?’ ”
She was taken aback by the sudden proposal, but managed to stammer, “Yeah, I guess.”
They researched marriage in Vegas online.
“They make it so easy,” Stephanie says. “The license bureau stays open till midnight.”
So after rehearsal the next day — Valentine’s Day — they eloped at The Little White Chapel, where such luminaries as Britney Spears (and Jason Allen Alexander), Joan Collins (and Peter Holm) and Demi Moore (and Bruce Willis) got married.
The “Stomp Out Loud” cast attended the wedding.
“It would have been nice if my family had been here,” Stephanie says. “But it was kind of impromptu.”
Her family is show business through and through, so it understands things can’t always be done in the normal way.
Her mother is Ellyn Long Marshall, a casting director in New York City. Her father is Larry Marshall, who was nominated for a Tony as best actor in the 1977 Broadway revival of “Porgy and Bess.” Stephanie’s maternal grandfather, Avon Long, played the role of Sportin’ Life in the 1942 revival of the classic musical. Long, who died in 1984, was a featured singer and dancer in the Cotton Club in New York in 1934.
Keith, a native of Brooklyn, may not have the show business pedigree, but he has the talent.
He says he was an aspiring actor in New York when he saw an ad for a “Stomp” audition. They were looking for “percussionists who move well” or “dancers with rhythmic skills.”
“I said, ‘Hey, I’m in the middle there somewhere,’ and so I auditioned and got the gig,” Keith says. “That was in 1995. Then Stephanie hit me in the head with a broom and I don’t remember anything else until we got married.”