|Keith Firstenberg (right) wears many hats as comedian/singer/dancer Neal Tilden|
He’s funny and talented, can sing and dance, and yet he’s a little insecure about his own abilities. Whether this describes Keith Firstenberg, or his comedic character Neil Tilden, is for audiences to decide, but The 1940s Radio Hour actor appears to be well-suited to his role. Keith describes his character as follows: “Neal Tilden is the resident comic of the Feddington players. He's been with the show from the beginning just like Ann and Johnny, but for some reason he just doesn't have the ‘star power’ that they do. He loves being the go-to guy for all things funny, but wishes they would recognize more of his singing and dancing talent, because he really does have the skills to do it all (at least he thinks so.)”
This convergence of actor and character might seem to simplify Keith’s job, but he says that his “greatest challenge has been keeping the ‘character’ separate from the ‘self’ because I have a tendency to absorb aspects of the role that I'm playing. Neal and I are already so very similar. I relate to his unstated insecurities -- or maybe I'm just projecting my own onto Neal! I also really enjoy Neal's sense of humor. Or maybe I just like my own sense of humor!”
Despite this schizophrenic split, Keith actually does a good job of keeping it all together on stage, and is a versatile performer. His scene as a discombobulated diction coach is sure to have audiences in stiches, and yet he brings touching vulnerability to his own vocal rendition of Blue Moon. Like his character, Keith is trying hard to belong and feel at home after recently relocating to this area from Traverse City, and Minnesota before that. Keith says, “I've always used theatre to meet people in a new area and I usually find that they are ‘my people’ and I feel quite comfortable very quickly; The Farmington Players is no exception.” Keith is “very pleased with the opportunity that I've been given in this show. I can showcase my acting, my singing and dancing with a great role and some fun music that one doesn't get to sing often.”
Keith is making his onstage debut at the Barn after helping with lights for Little Shop and sound for Avenue Q and Dixie Swim Club, but he is no stranger to the stage. A few of his favorite shows/roles include You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Snoopy), Evita (Che), The Foreigner (Charlie), and Fiddler on the Roof (Motel). He has also appeared in Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, Noises Off, The Producers, Urinetown, Into the Woods, Cabaret, Biloxi Blues, An Ideal Husband, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Book of Mathew Lebowitz.
The 1940s Radio Hour opened November 30th and runs through December 22nd. Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.