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Second-grader gets onstage with Figaro
Photo by Eric Mull
Second-grader gets onstage
By BOB ABELMAN
A tourist walks into a New York City bar. He orders a beer and says, "Excuse me, bartender. How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The bartender replies, "Practice."
Substitute the tourist for a second-grader at Moreland Hills Elementary School, change the question to, "How do you get to Playhouse Square," and the response would be, "Answer an e-mail from Opera Cleveland."
Better change the beer to milk while you're at it.
The e-mail was sent in January from the artistic administrator of Opera Cleveland, who was looking for children to appear in the 2009 season opener, "The Barber of Seville," by composer Gioacchino Rossini.
The libretto does not actually call for children, but, according to director Linda Brovsky in a recent daily newspaper interview, having children on stage solves the nearly 200-year-old awkwardness of Figaro singing his solo with the famous refrain, "Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!" to no one. Their presence adds logic to the moment and a bit of playfulness to the aria.
Eight-year-old Ryan Vincent, of Orange, is the youngest of five children selected to appear in this professional production, with one more performance, April 4, in the State Theatre. The opera is in Italian, but, during the 10 days of rehearsal, Ryan and the others were only required to learn key words so they can follow the action, know when to react and know when to exit.
For Ryan, learning to act is something that was accomplished long ago. It has been said that great performers like George M. Cohen and Eddie Foy were born in a backstage costume trunk and raised on the vaudeville stage.
Ryan has them beat by being on stage in utero during one of his mother Staci's community theater performances. He appeared in a local television commercial when he was a year old and, shortly thereafter, modeled for print ads for Step 2, Little Tikes and World Bank coins, among others. His mom and his dad, Leland, were approached by a talent agent when their son was only 18 months old.
By age 4, Ryan was perfecting his acting chops in Playmakers Performing Arts productions in Beachwood under the direction of Sheri Gross.
A seasoned veteran by age 7, he landed the role of Peter Dennis in the Hudson Players' production of the musical "Mame." The Times ran a review of that show and noted that, while some of the featured performers unfortunately sucked the air out the room, young Ryan Vincent was a breath of fresh air. He was charming and natural and all the other things that Opera Cleveland personnel obviously saw when casting local children for "The Barber of Seville."
For the three nights of the performances, Ryan has the unique opportunity to look out at the 3,500 seats and the grand, domed ceiling of the State Theatre from the vantage point of its historic stage. It's the same view witnessed by vaudevillians like George M. Cohen and Eddie Foy back in the 1920s.
For those three nights, he's performing with professional opera singers, including Brian Leerhuber, as Figaro, Daniela Mack, as Rosina, Alek Shrader, as Almaviva, and Thomas Hammons, as Dr. Bartolo. Ryan takes none of this for granted and is cherishing each and every moment.
What has most impressed him, however, is the huge private dressing room he's been given. "It comes with couches and lights around the mirrors and lockers," he proudly announced, "and I even have my own shower."
Young Ryan Vincent is now a bona fide professional actor, having gone from in utero to Figaro in only eight years. Better change the milk to Evian with a twist.
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