By MYRON LOVE
Over the years, our Jewish community has produced quite a number of individuals who have found success in the performing arts both here at home and elsewhere. Among them is Josh Assor.
The son of Hanania and Leslie Assor has done it all when it comes to musical theatre. A performer since he was a kid, he has in recent years been living in New York City and focusing exclusively on choreography in all its facets. Now though, having been back in Winnipeg since March due to the Covid-19 situation, he has had the opportunity to gain experience in a new area of entertainment – film and television production.
Assor is currently working for Winnipeg-based Eagle Vision, one of Canada’s top film and television production companies. “We have just finished filming the fourth season of ‘Burden of Truth’, he reports. “I am also working behind the scenes on a second Eagle Vision film.”
(“Burden of Truth” is filmed in Selkirk and Winnipeg and stars Kristin Kreuk as a big-city lawyer who returns to her home town to take on a case that changes her life and career. The series deals with the prejudices that Aboriginal people face within the larger community.)
“This job came up out of the blue,” Josh says. “It was a perfect opportunity to delve into a new area of my craft. I have been with Eagle Vision for six months and am having a great time.”
Josh was attracted to theatre and acting from a very young age. He actually began with some television roles followed by stage work. Some of the shows that he appeared in at Rainbow Stage were “Peter Pan”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Deam Coat” and “The Little Mermaid”.
Along the way, the young performer began taking dancing lessons. “I started training rather later in life in dance”, he recalls. I enrolled in Ken Peter Dance Express when I was 15. Originally, I was most interested in hip hop. I then followed with tap and, a couple of years later. I began studying all forms of dance, including jazz, ballet and musical theatre. By the time I was 17, I had decided to seriously pursue a career in the theatre.”
Josh attended Gray Academy to the end of Grade 9, then moved to Grant Park High School for Grades 10-12, attracted by the school’s well-known performing arts program.
The budding performer left Winnipeg after graduation for Los Angeles where he had scored a scholarship to study at the prestigious EDGE Performing Arts Center. He then moved to Toronto –when he was 19 – to begin the next phase of his career.
“I signed with an agent in Toronto,” Josh says. “Toronto is where most of the auditions take place. I did some television but mostly worked on the stage.”
His first major role was in a production of “West Side Story” at the Stratford Festival in 2008,” he recounts.
While he may have been based in Toronto over a period of three years, Josh notes, he spent a year in Montreal and the rest of the time in touring productions, which continued after his move to New York in 2010. Among his credits was the role of Neleus in the first national tour of “Mary Poppins” (and in which he also appeared on Broadway for the first time), “The Wizard of Oz” and Disney’s first National Tour of “Newsies” (in which he was the assistant dance captain).
“After more than two years in ‘Newsies’,” Josh notes, “I was ready for a change of pace. From day one - to become a choreographer was always my goal. I am happiest when I can be at my most creative. I felt that I had had a good run as a performer. I accomplished what I had wanted. It was time to focus on my development as a choreographer.”
Back in New York, his goal was to become a member of the faculty of the world-renowned Broadway Dance Centre. He started as a substitute teacher, became a guest instructor and, for the past three years, he has been a member of the faculty, focusing on musical theatre.
“People come from all over the world to study with us,” Josh says.
In addition to his teaching, Josh has continued to work professionally as a choreographer. Choreographic credits include New York Fashion Week, Audi, Celebrity Cruise Lines, Modos Furniture as well as regional productions of Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Newsies and the world premiere of “Medicine the Musical”, which ran in New York City, off-Broadway. He was the associate choreographer for the Saturday Night Fever National Tour as well as the Canadian Premiere of “Newsies” at Drayton Entrainment.
The show that he was scheduled to choreograph, which unfortunately was cancelled due to Covid, was “The Sound Of Music”, and which was scheduled to play both the Royal MTC as well as The Citadel Theater. “We are still hopeful to bring this show to life next season,” he reports.
Josh appreciates that he has been able to realize what he is passionate about in his life’s work. He adds that he is hoping to be able to get back to New York sometime in the next few months.
“Right now, I am living day by day,” he observes, “and playing it by ear.”