San Diego theater: ‘An American in Paris’ gives Ryan Steele his first adult roleEntertainment News, Online Only, Section 4A Wednesday, September 6th, 2017
Ryan Steele has been best known for his roles on stage as a teenager for the last eight years. His first role on Broadway was in the revival of West Side Story. That show gave Steele two solid years of work. That led to being cast in the musical Billy Elliot.
Soon after his work on Elliot, he joined the cast of a new musical based on a Walt Disney film about a group of rag tag kids who sell newspapers during the depression. That show was Newsies and it hit Broadway in 2012 after the show got its tryout at The Papermill Playhouse.
Steele played the role of Specs in both productions for almost a year when he was asked to join the musical Matilda, which opened in 2013.
Here we are in 2017 and Steele has graduated from playing kids to getting the chance to play his first adult role in the musical An American In Paris. The musical is based on the film that starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.
This marks the first national tour that Steele has been a part of and he’s seems to be enjoying every bit of it.
“It’s been incredible to see the country,” Steele said. “Getting to perform in all of these different theaters is really exciting. It’s interesting to see how different cities respond to our show. I’m learning a ton!”
Even though this is his first tour it’s definitely not his first time performing in San Diego. He was actually here in San Diego at The Old Globe in September 2015 in the world premiere musical In Your Arms and he’s looking forward to returning here.
“I performed at the Old Globe in Christopher Gattelli’s In Your Arms,” Steele said. “I love San Diego! I’m excited to spend some time on the beaches and in Balboa Park. It’s a beautiful city.”
As mentioned above Steele is getting the opportunity to play his first adult role in An American in Paris, which is giving him, among other things, a chance to leave behind a wealth of roles that are usually played by younger actors.
“Well it’s one of my first adult roles,” Steele admitted. “I’ve made a career of playing kids or teenagers on stage (Baby John in West Side Story, Newsies, Matilda). Playing Jerry in An American In Paris is certainly the most responsibility I’ve ever had on stage. It feels nice to show people that I can do this too. Be an adult. Be sexy. Be a man.”
Being cast in a National Tour coupled with playing his first lead adult role is something that took a while to register for Steele. It wasn’t until he was actually rehearsing for a role he’s wanted for some time now.
“It honestly didn’t sink in until the first day of rehearsal,” Steele confessed. “I was learning the beginning of the Act 2 Pas De Deux with Leigh Ann Esty, and we both had a ‘whoa’ moment. I’ve been such a fan of this role and the show for a while. Getting to do it is a real honor.”
Being in so many well-known popular musicals in the last decade isn’t something many performers get the chance to do. Steel was fortunate enough to do them and to have been able to take something away from each one of those opportunities.
“Every show that I’ve done has been special in its own way,” Steele said. “West Side Story introduced me to musical theater and Broadway. Performing that iconic Robbins choreography is something I’ll always cherish. Billy Elliot was my first and only time swinging a show. It was really interesting learning a show from that perspective. Newsies was a perfect storm of material, friendships, leadership and love for the show. That was life changing. An American In Paris has stretched me most as an artist. I’m taking away so many valuable lessons and some lifelong friendships.”
Steele has been dancing ever since he was a young child, five-years-old to be exact. Both of his parents taught dance and he and his two siblings were a part of those classes, but Steele was the only one to continue pursuing it. It was at dance class that he fell in love with dancing but was definitely hooked when he got his first job.
“We all took dance classes at one point, but I’m the only one who does it professionally,” Steele said. “I performed in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular when I was 10 years old, that’s when I found out that people could actually make money while dancing. It was mind blowing. Something that I loved so much could also earn me a living?! After that, it was never a question.”
As with most performers Steele has a few people who inspired him along the way to become the performer that he is today.
“As a kid, I loved Andy Blankenbuehler,” Steele shared. “He came to my studio often to teach workshop classes, and I just idolized him. Now my list of inspirations is pretty long. Curtis Holbrook will always be a big inspiration and mentor to me. We met when I was a teenager, and he really helped me figure a lot out when I first moved to NYC. He’s a great friend, and an incredible performer. I’d drop pretty much anything to see that man on stage.”
Oddly enough ballet was not Steele’s first love when he started to dance. But with the help of his teachers and his desire to get it right he’s developed a love for it now.
“Well, to be clear, I wouldn’t say ballet has the “coveted top spot,” Steele said. “Ballet never came easy to me, and I learned that at a pretty young age. My turn out was terrible. My back was inflexible. I just gravitated toward where I had more fun, which was in jazz class. I think it was around 14 when I grew a tremendous amount of respect for ballet. My teachers were fantastic, and I was also able to study around the country with other amazing educators. So it was around my time in high school when I started to enjoy ballet class. It’s never been easy, but that’s what makes it fun I guess.”
An American in Paris definitely boasts amazing choreography but it also has a score that will be familiar to just about everyone. That could be because the songs are written by the Gershwin’s whose songs have been enjoyed by theater goers for decades.
As for the part of the show that Steele favors most, it will come as no surprise that it’s one of the many dances in the show.
“Getting to dance the last Pas De Deux is hands down my favorite,” Steele said. “I did the workshop of the show when it was in its early stages. I’ll always remember watching Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope doing it in the studio. Being given the opportunity to do it now is so rewarding.”
As for what could be next for Steele, at the moment this show will be keeping him busy until July of 2018, or possibly longer but if he had to choose his next project, it would be a show written by Billy Joel and choreographed by Twyla Tharp.
“Movin’ Out was the first Broadway show I ever saw,” Steele shared. “It was the first time I saw dance telling the story in that way. It was something I’ll never forget. I’m not sure this would ever happen, but if it came back, I’d love to be a part of it.”
An American in Paris runs through Sept. 10 at the Civic Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at Broadwaysd.com or at the Civic Theatre Box Office 619-564-3011.
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