After deciding to end his competitive skating career, as a 19-year-old junior, Rich McBride pursued his dreams of theatre. Receiving a scholarship to the Banff Center of the Arts, he studied Music Theater and has had a successful career in theatre, television and cruise ships. The past four years, he has also pursued his interest in bodybuilding and modeling, competing in his first BB contest this past April.
After a five-year hiatus from the ice, he found that he missed skating, got his legs back, and rediscovered the joy of it. Soon after ice shows came into the picture.
Now alternating all these disciplines, Rich recently toured with the first year of GREASE on ICE, with Nancy Kerrigan, Scott Davis and Gig Siruno- skating the ensemble and understudy for "Sonny." This summer he was featured in Sinbad-The Ice Adventure in Dubai, UAE.
Rich enjoys what is specific to the ice-show genre. "As a kid, doing the club carnival was IT!" he said. "What was interesting about GREASE was it was a different kind of show for Disney. A book Broadway musical, choreographed by a dancer. It was thrilling to ride the wave of audience enthusiasm for Nancy, Scott and the high energy of the show in general."
But other aspects of the experience showed him where the skating world lags far behind other areas of the entertainment industry: "The structure and policies of this show were very eye opening," he said. "I have been very spoiled to be part of unions like Actorís Equity and ACTRA for film and television. I wanted to do GREASE- to have this experience. I signed as an ensemble/understudy, yet I really had to bite the bullet very hard. After touring with several Equity theatre productions (including PETER PAN with Cathy Rigby), I really feel some major changes need to be made in the world of show skating (and I donít mean Star on Ice). It is time to push the envelope as far as salaries and benefits. Dare I say union?
"Skaters have no advocate whatsoever. Coming from the amateur world, they have no negotiating skills or knowledge of the biz. Years after being with companies, skaters just accept the status quo. There are not a lot of shows out there either. Catch-22. As a result, producers take complete advantage of this situation. Even with a decade as a professional performer under my belt, I was unable to get out being forced to going through a 3-month financial/job probation period! Of course the world of Stars on Ice and Disney-Feld (Ice Capades and park shows, etc.) are planets apart. I remember the very first conversation I had with Nancy Kerrigan revolved around her disbelief that we did all not have agents! Actually this SHOULD be the case, skaters being highly skilled athlete-artists. Things are going to be difficult to change, because there is always that pool of young skaters to take advantage of. With Disney, skaters get such a bum deal- issues such as having to pay a % of hotels without having the appropriate per diem- I could go on and on. A company meal on a 3-show day and even Aetna Health insurance is not what I consider being compensated! In touring theatre, a chorus performer makes considerably more than even principal skaters! Producers such as Kenneth Feld, who HAS produced Equity Theater and shows like Siegfried and Roy in Vegas, KNOW BETTER and are blatantly taking advantage of skaters. It is shameful. And now the new Ice Capades is following right in Feldís footsteps. I would really encourage skaters to look at AGVA again. It may not be much, but itís a small springboard towards a more influential voice."
"I AM glad to have the 'big show' experience under my belt," said Rich, "but I learned my lesson and it would definitely be the wrong choice for me to do it again. Sadly, there are not that many shows out there that offer the right 'package.'"
This year Rich competed in his first bodybuilding contest and has been working as a model. He has been included in a gay calendar and card collection just released from Bluedoor Productions.
"It has been interesting to grow up in a sport where many people assume your homosexual preference, while at the same time, actually knowing from an early age that I am gay," said Rich. "Making the transition from figure skating to the very open family of musical theatre really made it easy to be myself."
Rich is considering the possibility of competing at the Gay Games in Sydney in both skating and bodybuilding. "I have not participated in the Games before, although for Amsterdam, I choreographed two programs for a friend," he said. This would definitely be an extreme physical challenge. It would be exciting to try and pull off. I think I could bring something very interesting to the Games by combining the two disciplines."
Rich is relocating to Los Angeles this month. His latest projects include creating the web site RAMBUILT.COM to promote and sell photo merchandise. He will be modeling for the gay companies 10% Productions and Jeff Palmer Productions.
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