If the movements underneath the padded costume and giant head of Buford in the Disney’s Phineas and Ferb: The Best Live Tour Ever! show look familiar to you — especially if you’re from Hilliard or attended Bishop Watterson High School from 2002-06, well, good on ya — that’s Justin Kouns under there.
Kouns takes a central Ohio stage for the first time since the 2005 production of BalletMet Columbus’ The Nutcracker (he was a student at the company’s Dance Academy) when the touring Disney show comes to town this Friday. “This one’s special because it’s in my hometown,” Kouns told The Beat. “It’s a big deal to me. I’m very thankful to be able to come back to Columbus and do what I’ve been doing on this tour.”
What he’s been doing is dancing and acting in the first live show from the latest Disney hit television show. Kouns “plays” Buford van Stomm, the show’s tough guy and one of four characters in the live show to appear in full costume.
“My job is to keep the audience thinking about it being Buford and not someone in a costume,” Kouns explained. “You have to put so much energy into it and make your moves bigger.”
And because the characters are voiced by the voice actors who do the televised version of P&F, Kouns said, the stage actors have to “sync our body movements to the lines. In some ways, it’s like charades. I do a lot of acting without talking.”
This is Kouns’ first touring production. He has been dancing in shows with Disney in Orlando since graduating from Watterson in 2006.
Kouns said he had done some singing and acting while growing up, but it wasn’t until he took classes at BalletMet during his senior year of high school that he caught the dancing bug. Combined with his family’s roots in Orlando — Kouns was born there before his parents moved back to Ohio to raise their family — that bug led to Kouns making an “impulse move” to Orlando after high school. “I figured at least I had to get it out of my system,” he joked. “But so far, I’ve kind of found a career in dancing.
Kouns said Disney dancers are given a chance to audition for the company’s touring shows, and when he was cast in Phineas and Ferb, he jumped at the opportunity. “I had heard of the show but hadn’t seen it, so when I got the job, I figured I’d better start watching,” he said. “It’s a really good show. I never realized.”
The live production is based on an episode of the TV show, finding the lead characters trying to make the most of a day during their summer vacation. It includes many of the show’s popular songs as well, including Gitchee Gitchee Goo, Squirrels in My Pants and Backyard Beach.
“(Touring has) been crazy,” Kouns said from a stop in Illinois. “I’ve never traveled like this. There are days I wake up and have to ask where we are.
“But I’m having a great time getting to know (the rest of the cast) and the experience is great.”
Kouns said he plans to stay at home while the show is in Columbus, sleeping in his old bed, enjoying his mom’s cooking, driving his car and visiting Watterson and some other haunts he’s been mostly away from for the past five years. “Coming back to the place where I learned everything, I kind of have to take a deep breath,” Kouns said. “I can’t tell you how much I’m anticipating this.”
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