In the opening number of Chicago at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, womanizing furniture salesman Fred Casley seems to defy gravity as he leaps into the story, quickly capturing both Roxie’s heart, and the attention of the audience.
For Netanel Bellaishe, who plays Fred, it’s simply the next stage of a career in which he has – quite literally – soared.
Indianapolis is a far cry from his native Israel, where Netanel says he was a chubby kid who did not really care for dancing. But his mother, a native of Morocco who studied ballet as a child, was undeterred, placing her 7-year-old son in the prestigious Bat-Dor Ballet School of Israel with his older brother and sister.
“I didn’t particularly enjoy it,” he recalls, “but I stuck around to make my mother happy.”
That happiness extended well beyond Gila Bellaishe when, years later, Israel declared her youngest son was truly “Born To Dance.” Netanel won both viewers’ hearts and their votes in Israel’s equivalent of the American television show “So You Think You Can Dance” – taking the title in the show’s third season.
“Winning ‘Born To Dance’ was the assurance I needed that indeed I am in the right profession. It was a turning point in my life – and a crucial one,” Netanel admits. “’Born to Dance’ gave me myself, and the strength it takes to be yourself. Since then I started listening to my heart only, knowing that I am the strongest I can be, and nothing can stop me from achieving my goals. I was indeed ‘born’ that day: March 3rd, 2008.”
Although Netanel knew he was destined for a performing career, dance was not enough. He had a desire to become the whole package: dancer, singer and actor.
“My ballet teacher said in front the ‘Born to Dance’ cameras: ‘Netanel was always a show man. On stage he was always 10 times better than in the studio.’ I guess that says it all about me,” Netanel says.
With musicals as his goal, Netanel set out on a path to Chicago – not the show on stage now at Beef & Boards, but an Israeli production, performed in Hebrew.
“It was the first musical I ever did,” Netanel notes. “It’s a big part of why I’m in the business. From a strict dancer, I became a performer.”
So Netanel came to the United States to study musical theatre at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. After graduating, he was soon cast in the National Tour of A Chorus Line as Larry and the company’s dance captain. Netanel also won “Best Theatre Performance” for his portrayal of his idol, Gene Kelly, in the play What A Glorious Feeling. Other favorite roles so far are Tommy Djilas in The Music Man and Tulsa in Gypsy. “I’m an old-fashioned song-and-dance man,” Netanel says.
And now he’s on stage in Indianapolis, performing in the musical that inspired him in the first place.
“It's a nice closer to go back to Chicago, this time in the original language it was written,” Netanel remarks. “It definitely signifies that I am accomplishing what I set to do, moving to America.”
As Fred, Netanel flips through the air with ease, landing deftly on the Beef & Boards stage and performing Chicago’s Bob Fosse choreography with equal amounts of strength and flexibility, seeming to defy the limitations of the human body.
“Fred is such a treat, since I get to be as animated and cartoony as I please,” says Netanel. “Comedy has always been my strong suit, and Fred's animated character is so much fun!”
Chicago is on stage at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre through Oct. 7. Tickets range from $37 to $60 and include Chef Odell Ward’s buffet, coffee, tea and lemonade. For reservations, call the Beef & Boards Box Office at 317.872.9664. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays. For more information, including show schedule, visit www.beefandboards.com. Beef & Boards is giving this production a PG-13 rating.
Pictured: Fred Casely (Netanel Bellaishe) dances in the opening number “All That Jazz” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of the Broadway smash hit Chicago, now on stage through Oct. 7.