Broadway Performer & Film Actor Visits His Roots
SCAPA at Bluegrass crackled with excitement as staff and students welcomed back theatre alum and Tony nominee Colton Ryan, who shared a bit about his journey from Lexington to Broadway. Ryan was in town to perform at the Lexington Opera House as the featured artist in Concert with the Stars.
“He’s done a lot, and we’re really proud of him,” said Principal Beth Randolph, who deemed him a triple threat as a talented singer, dancer, and actor. “Even when he was here, we knew where he was headed.”
Ryan attended SCAPA in grades 4-8 where he started out as a voice major, shifted to band (tuba!), and then to theatre. “Drama has my heart,” he told students gathered Friday in the school’s multipurpose room, where he recalled also sitting crisscross applesauce on the floor. He sprinkled humor throughout the casual 90-minute Q&A session, answering a variety of questions about the arts and his career, and he led an impromptu sing-along of a Shakespearean sonnet (which all SCAPA students learn in class).
A 2013 graduate of Lafayette High School and the SCAPA program, Ryan reminisced about childhood productions that helped set him on his chosen path, including “The Hobbit” and “Willy Wonka.” “Once I caught the bug doing shows at SCAPA, I started doing community theatre,” he explained. A few years later, after thriving in musical theatre at a conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio, he found himself in New York performing in Broadway shows, on television series, and in a film adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen.”
“You never know when the Major Leagues will come calling, so you just try to be ready. And you work really hard so they’ll keep calling,” Ryan said. “As actors, every day we ask ourselves ‘Who Am I?’. You’ll find out, and then it shows.”
In 2023, Ryan was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his role as Jim Doyle in “New York, New York.” When one SCAPA student asked if New York is where dreams come true, Ryan replied: “The ‘dream come true’ is to continue making art the rest of your life. … All of us here (at SCAPA) are so lucky because your life is surrounded by art. To live your life creatively is the luckiest life you could live,” he said. But he cautioned the road is not easy. “You have to cultivate and strive, and it’s hard work. It’s about discipline,” Ryan told the crowd, including voice, theatre, and dance majors from the neighboring Lafayette campus.
A couple of students got to meet Ryan up close; others gathered afterward for him to autograph everything from sneakers to bare forearms. Lafayette freshman Nathan Campbell even got a signature on a keepsake playbill from New York.
“It was amazing because I love the music of ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ and I’ll get to see him perform (at the Lexington Opera House),” said seventh-grade drama major Cat Bravo, who was inspired by Ryan’s success. “Maybe I’ll get to be the (next) one,” she added.