An aspiring actor from Lincoln-Way East High School has caught a rare glimpse into Broadway.
Ryan Smetana, who has been involved in the spring musicals and Madrigal program at Lincoln-Way East, was one of 24 high school students from the state of Illinois picked to participate in the 2012 Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards and audition for an opportunity to participate in a performance enrichment program on Broadway.
He was selected after submitting an application, resume, headshot and video of himself performing two songs in March.
“It was a great honor,” said Ryan, who was among more than 50 students from Cary, Vernon Hills, Deerfield, Chicago, Plainfield, South Barrington, Peoria, Clarendon Hills, Flossmoor, Evanston, Lisle, O’Fallon, Hawthorn Woods, Northbrook, Oak Lawn, Arlington Heights, Palatine, Crystal Lake and Barrington to audition for the awards program.
He, along with the 23 other finalists traveled to Chicago on May 7 to learn the closing number from the Broadway hit Jersey Boys (from the actual national touring cast members) and to audition for the next phase of the competition.
“I was thrilled to work with the (cast members of Jersey Boys) and kids my own age who are going into similar college experiences and work experiences,” he said. “It was such a great experience.”
The group of 12 boys and 12 girls spent a few hours working with the music director, two dance captains and the female lead from Jersey Boys, perfecting their delivery of the song “Oh What a Night” and learning the actual dance steps from the show.
They performed the piece that night during the Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards ceremony.
Earlier that day, they took turns singing an audition piece in front of a talent agent, the vice president of Broadway in Chicago and the actor who plays Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys.
Ryan chose to sing “76 Trombones” from the musical The Music Man, which Lincoln-Way East students just performed as their spring musical. Ryan played the lead role of Harold Hill in the school adaptation.
The audition in front of a talent agent and professional actor was “a little nerve-racking,” admitted Ryan, but he decided to look at it as a learning experience rather than a competition.
“I went in with the mentality that I’m not losing anything,” he said. “I’m only gaining.”
Ultimately, a female student from O’Fallon and a male student from Northbrook were selected to go on to the next phase of the competition and represent Illinois at the Jimmy Awards in New York on June 25.
“Even though I’m not going on (to New York), I feel like I’ve already won,” said Ryan. “It was such a great experience.”
Lincoln-Way East choral director Alysia Lambert said it has been a pleasure working with such a talented artist as Ryan and that she knows he’s destined for success.
“Ryan Smetana is one of the finest students I have ever taught,” she said. “His outstanding stage performances are only exceeded by his incredible work ethic and concern for others. His manners, his kindness, and his selflessness are hallmark characteristics of an outstanding young man destined for success.”
Ryan, who is completing his senior year at Lincoln-Way East, plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he will study theater.
The budding actor knows it’s a tough profession to break into, but he’s determined to give it his best effort.
“I enjoy it,” he said of acting.