Tony nominee Colton Ryan returns for Lexington performance
Having someone from Lexington create a leading role in a Broadway musical is a pretty rare event. That person coming home and performing for local fans within a year of that career milestone is something I cannot recall in 25 years covering the arts for the Herald-Leader.
But that is exactly what will happen when Tony Award-nominated Lexingtonian Colton Ryan takes the stage for the Lexington Theatre Company’s Concert with the Stars at the Lexington Opera House. The show will have Ryan in front of a Lexington audience mere months after starring as Jimmy Doyle in the stage adaptation of “New York, New York,” a 1977 Martin Scorsese movie starring Robert De Niro as Jimmy opposite Liza Minnelli.
The show put Ryan in the company of a bevy of Broadway A-Listers including “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, legendary songwriting duo John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, and director and choreographer Susan Stroman, whose credits include the groundbreaking hit “The Producers.” While it was not liked by most critics, the show received nine Tony nominations, including Ryan for best actor in a musical.
Through his stage and screen successes, Ryan has always found his way back to Lexington, including coming home for several months in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Opera House’s stage is very familiar to him from years in SCAPA (School for Creative and Performing Arts) shows, to several turns with the Theatre Company, including playing Tony in the 2019 production of “West Side Story” and as one of the three Broadway veterans in the 2018 Concert with the Stars.
This year, he has the stage all to himself. Call it Concert with the Star, as Ryan will be the sole Broadway vet with some surprise guests and the “LexFam Ensemble,” which includes alumni from professional casts, company teaching artists and students in the company’s Story Cycle educational program, according to The Lex artistic director Lyndy Franklin Smith.
The show, which will include milestone numbers from Ryan’s career, is at 8 p.m. Jan. 6 at the Lexington Opera House, and tickets are $24 to $67. Visit lexingtontheatrecompany.org for more information and tickets or call 859-233-3535.
Opera House Broadway Live shows
Ryan’s appearance is the first of several enticing dates on the Lexington-area arts calendar for early 2024 that stand out for their unique offerings.
The Lexington Opera House’s Broadway Live series brings two titles that have been hits elsewhere to the Bluegrass for the first time.
“The Cher Show,” Jan. 26 to 28, looks at the superstar’s career over its six decades with three women portraying her. It comes to Lexington as the 77-year-old icon is back in the spotlight with a hit Christmas album.
“Come From Away,” Feb. 16 to 18, tells the story of the Newfoundland, Canada, town that opened its doors and hearts to 7,000 travelers stranded there after the terror attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. It holds the distinction of being the longest-running Canadian musical in Broadway history.
For Broadway Live tickets and information, visit lexingtonoperahouse.com/broadwaylive or call 859-233-3535.
New art exhibits galore at UK, Loudoun House
I scoured the University of Kentucky Art Museum and Lexington Art League’s Loudoun House listings to find one or two exhibits to label as particularly intriguing, and I cannot pinpoint just one for either. From explorations of war in the Middle East, works in mediums such as crayon, examinations of the museum itself as a concept, works by Lexington seniors and lots and lots of local artists, there are rich lineups of art to catch at both locations, and none of it seems routine.
The University of Kentucky Theatre brings Jackie Sibblies Drury’s 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Drama “Fairview” to the Briggs Theatre Stage Feb. 29 to March 3. The play uses planning for a family matriarch’s birthday party to explore issues of race in a challenging, searing satire. Visit finearts.uky.edu/theatre-dance/current-season or call 859-257-4929 to learn more.
New Studio Players production
When I first read the description of Studio Players’ next show, “Morning After Grace,” it sounded like a routine aftermath-of-the-one-night-stand story, until it said, “set in a Florida retirement community.” Intriguing, and I must note that the leading man is my fellow former-Herald-Leader arts writer Kevin Nance. This twist on an old formula by Carey Crim plays Jan. 11 to 28 at Studio Players’ Carriage House Theatre on West Bell Court. Visit studioplayers.org or call 257-4929 for tickets and more information.
New Lexington Philharmonic composer-in-residence Shawn E. Okpebholo
We end the Early 2024 arts season where we began: With a hometown-artist-made-good story. The Lexington Philharmonic’s 2023-24 Composer-in-Residence is Shawn E. Okpebholo, a Lexington native who is now a prominent voice among active composers and part of a growing movement of Black composers in orchestral music. May 18, the Philharmonic will present the world premiere of the Grammy Award nominee’s “Two Black Churches for Orchestra,” a meditation on the racist attacks on 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 and Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. It will feature baritone Will Liverman, who originally commissioned the work for voice and piano. The Philharmonic commissioned the orchestral work under the guidance of music director Mélisse Brunet, who is completing her second season at the podium for the Phil. Visit lexphil.org or call 859-233-4226 for tickets and more information.
As soon as this goes to print, I know some other intriguing offering will show up in my inbox because, as I said, I have been doing this a while. There is a lot going on in Central Kentucky, and these are just some highlights. Get out and make great art part of an amazing 2024.