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Shelby girl tours nation with Broadway hit

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By Scotty McDaniel

 Ruby Lewis skipped baby steps and quickly went to giant leaps in her performance career.

  At just 3 or 4 years old, she started singing at United Methodist Church here in Shelbyville. In an interview with The Sentinel-News when she was just 12 years old, she said she hoped to one day sing and dance on Broadway.

  Now a 23-year-old bombshell, she already has established an impressive resume and is currently a part of the Broadway National Tour of Grease. She's living her dream.

  "Being employed, having a part in Grease -- you can't finish the show and not be happy. I feel blessed and I thank the Lord every day. It's a really cool experience," she said.

  With Grease closing on Broadway Jan. 3, Lewis, a Shelby County High School and Western Kentucky University grad, will soon be a part of the only Broadway production of GREASE out there.

  "It's a great show to tour with, because most everybody is my age. It's kind of like being back in school," she said. "We travel around, do the show, see the sights, and we have a lot of fun."

  The major ticket-seller for the show, she said, is "American Idol" season 5 winner Taylor Hicks, who plays "Teen Angel." Lewis said the cast doesn't see Hicks a lot, but when he does come out, he's a really cool guy. 

  As she travels the country, sits next to Hicks on stage, or struggles to get her suitcases into yet another elevator, she says she tells herself nearly everyday, "This is my life."

  And what a life it is. She has an apartment in New York -- not that she's there much. Earlier this year she finished her national tour playing June in the hit show Gypsy, a stint comprised of nearly 200 performances. She didn't miss a single one.

  And when that door closed, another one opened. 

  "I finished Gypsy May 14th in Philadelphia and drove back to New York that night," she said. "On the 15th, Grease on Broadway was having a big open call. I didn't want to go because I was tired, but I ended up going and was one of the last people they saw that day."

  Six auditions and a couple of dance calls later -- and the rest is history.

  She is a dancer in the show's ensemble, and she's also part of the couple that goes up against Danny and Cha Cha in a dance-off. 

  "I do a lot of heavy dancing, and I'm in all the group numbers," she said. "Hand Jive is one the funnest numbers for me. The choreographer changes it up a bit. We mirror '50s dance moves, so basically we just goof off the whole time. The final number we do together is a whole lot of fun, too. It's high energy."

  But her part in the tour doesn't stop there. She also puts in more work as an understudy for the roles of Sandy and Patty. She said she rehearses at least four hours a week as an understudy.

  "This show is particularly difficult because there's a lot of group members running around nonsensically. So to know where a person is supposed to be at a certain time is hard," she said.

  Last week she said there were 12 hours of rehearsal.

  "But it was a blessing, because we had 12 hours of rehearsal during the week, and once Friday hit, some kind of stomach flu hit the company and there were six people out," she said. "I got a call 10 in the morning and went on at 1 for Patty for the Sunday matinee."

  The national tour of GREASE has only been on the road for 3 weeks now, and Lewis has already been on for Patty twice.

  So what's the lifestyle like?

  Lewis said she loves seeing the sights, meeting people and seeing how different regions of the country can be. She said she misses her family, but she said she is lucky to be a part of a cast she considers her family away from home.

  And what's it feel like to be on the big stage in a major production like Grease?

  "There are a couple of places where I do lifts or stunts, and I get nervous for those because they could go wrong," she said.

  "But for the most part it's pretty easy going now."

  Fate sometimes is.