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Welcome to the Indie Stage: Joey McKneely

27858058_125051688311798_794528212087534870_n.jpgStage and film professional, Joey McKneely, is a two-time Tony Nominated Broadway Choreographer (Smokey Joe’s Cafe and The Life) and the international Director and Choreographer of West Side Story. Other Broadway credentials include Twelfth Night, The Wild Party, The Boy From OZ and the West Side Story revival. He directed/choreographed the U.S. National Tours of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie Get Your Gun, Crazy For You and Smokey Joe’s Café. Internationally, he directed/choreographed the world premieres of Love U Theresa, Ah, Kuling! And Jiu Gan Tang Mai Wu In China; The Beautiful Game, Thoroughly Modern Millie, West Side Story in Japan; Evita and Dusty in London. On film, McKneely is known for his work on Zoolander, The In Crowd, and Far East.


Mr. McKneely is making the transition to NY stage director as well as choreographer. After nine years workshopping his gothic dance musical, Shadows, he is ready to unveil the dancing specters and klavish romantic plot. A powerhouse cast including Janine Divita, who appeared on Broadway in Grease, Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Anything Goes; and Alex (John Arthur Greene, who will be appearing in Tootsie on Broadway with previous Broadway credits of School of Rock, Chicago, West Side Story, Matilda, and on NBC in Peter Pan Live.  and special guest, Irina Dvorovenko; a Soloist with the American Ballet Theatre as well as having made Broadway star-turns in Encores! productions of On Your Toes and Grand Hotel).

Let’s learn about indie theatre’s newest luminary:

1003990695-FL_SAR_fawestside08d.jpgTell us about yourself as an artist. 

Wow…that’s a loaded question. Which part of me as an artist? 

  • The driven, unrelenting, anal retentive, detail artist? 
  • The compassionate, boundary pushing, the up in the middle of the night with a new idea artist?
  • The laughter, screamer, emotional, method actor artist? 
  • The arrive early-leave late, sweaty, full out dancer artist?  
  • The insecure, cerebral, the need to be accepted, commercial artist? 
  • Or maybe the artist who is so in love with being an artist that he wouldn’t be happy doing anything else?

Not sure how to answer this question. 


mckneely_joey_rehearsal_2.jpgTell us about your role in Shadows

I am the Director, Choreographer and a co-Creator. I have been developing this project for 9yrs with Randall David Cook. And more recently with our composers who have added songs which have really given life to the piece. Each time Edison Woods, Maxim or Karen bring a new piece of music into the show, the show gets elevated to a whole new level. It’s been so satisfying to work with all of these artist. I am so proud of the work all of them have done. 

Our mission was to create a story where dance was an equal part of the narrative. The Spirits tell their story through dance, and the Lovers through song and text. Both stories feed on each other and interweave emotions, plot and character.  It’s been interesting shifting hats from Director to Choreographer and then back to an author. It’s made me very hyper-aware of storytelling in every detail. I learn everyday something more about the show though this process and the process of collaborating with each of the other authors. Each member of the team shines because of this process. 


Share with us your thoughts on independent theater. What is its significance to the skyline of entertainment in NYC?

 As someone who is new to independent theater, I am exhilarated by the freedom of it! It’s an arena which one can make up one’s own rules. Find new ways of telling a story without the constraints of having to make a profit or please a particular crowd.  One can experiment. Hopefully, if we do it right, we will find a greater path for the show and reach a wider audience. Right now, it’s all about the work. Which is what NY Theater needs more of. Affordable ways to produce theater in order for artist to discover how to be great story tellers.  I applaud all of those artist! Because it ain’t easy, especially if one is a self-producing artist.  I feel there is an undercurrent of desire not only on the theater artist side but on the audience side who are hungry for original story telling that’s entertaining and invigorating.   I believe independent theater is not part of the skyline of entertainment in NYC….it is part of the underground of entertainment in the city. Doesn’t always work, but it’s affordable, real, and vital to the life blood of the artist who one day may very well be lighting up the skyline of NYC.

SHADOWS flyer final .jpg


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