Friends and mentors of 'Dear Evan Hansen' star Colton Ryan reflect on his impact in Lexington arts community

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Posted at 5:24 PM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 18:29:36-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — When Beth Randolph sits down to watch ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ in theatres this weekend, she’ll see a familiar face on the screen.

Lexington native Colton Ryan plays Connor Murphy in the film adaptation of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical.

Randolph, who is the principal at the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA) at Lafayette High School, was Ryan’s fifth-grade teacher.

“Colton is making our [SCAPA] family very proud,” she said. “I can’t wait to see him on the big screen.”

Ryan was accepted into SCAPA in the fourth grade. His teachers remember him as a sweet boy who loved performing in all capacities.

Ryan played the tuba in band, won competitions with the speech team, and played in most of the school’s shows, according to SCAPA drama teacher Alberta Labrillazo.

“This is what he loved to do,” Labrillazo said. “To see him doing well is just thrilling.”

“I remember when he was a senior in high school and he played Jean Valjean in our Les Mis and I literally cried sitting there listening to him singing,” Randolph recalled.

That voice earned him role after role in SCAPA productions, and the attention of The Lexington Theatre Company in 2016.

“I just thought, ‘Wow. This kid is talented. He has an amazing future ahead of him,’” said Lyndy Franklin Smith, the theatre company’s artistic director.

The Lexington Theatre Company’s Concert with the Stars connects Broadway stars with aspiring young performers.

Ryan performed in the 2016 show, and returned in 2018 to help mentor other Lexington actors following his Broadway debut.

“All I ever wanted to do was make this town proud,” Ryan said during his 2018 Concert with the Stars performance. “If I could ever, to any person in this place, make them feel like it was possible, that would be everything.”

Ryan returned to the Lexington Opera House in 2019 to star in The Lexington Theatre Company’s 2019 production of West Side Story.

“We could just see within him not only his beautiful gift of performance, but his beautiful vulnerability as a storyteller,” Franklin Smith said about watching him grow as an actor over the years.

She said getting to see him in ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is made sweeter because she’s seen his commitment and love of performing evolve over the years.

“We know Lexington is so proud of Colton and we cannot wait to see this film and what happens next. He’s got a bright future,” she said.

And also lifelong fans cheering him on every day right in his hometown.