‘Chorus Line’ directors wanted to ‘give Lexington something fabulous.’
If you want to trace the roots of The Lexington Theatre Company’s summer season, you would have to travel halfway across the country to the Midwest.
The company, also known as The LEX, prides itself as “Today’s Broadway Stars and Tomorrow’s Broadway Hopefuls” by helping bring Broadway talent to the Bluegrass State.
When the company’s husband and wife co-founders Lyndy Franklin Smith (artistic director) and Jeromy Smith (producing director) were theatre students at Oklahoma City University’s School of American Dance and Arts Management, they traveled north to Kansas to gain additional theatrical experience at Music Theatre Wichita. That provided Broadway-level productions and real-world education for aspiring performers and technicians.
The Smith’s both went on to have success on Broadway and in other theatrical ventures in large part to what they learned performing alongside Broadway performers in Wichita. When they came to Kentucky to create what would become The LEX, that inspiration turned into something more.
“We knew we wanted to bring something similar to Lexington and we wanted to create a professional theatre for Central Kentucky and we wanted to pay it forward,” Lyndy said.
Now in its fifth season and its second summer producing a two-show season, The LEX will present the Broadway classic “West Side Story” July 11-14 and Disney’s “Newsies” from August 1-4. Both productions will be at the Lexington Opera House.
This season featured an extensive audition tour where more than 1,000 auditioned for the chance to be a part of The LEX’s mission to combine Broadway performers with local actors and college students both in Kentucky and across the country.
This will be the first time “Newsies” has been presented on stage in Lexington. It will feature Broadway veterans Stephen R. Buntrock (Joseph Pulitizer) and Dan DeLuca, who played the original role of Jack Kelly in the musical’s first national Broadway touring production. Lyndy will serve as director on this production, which she anticipates will be quite a treat for her.
“I was obsessed with the film when it came out in the ‘90s,” she said of the 1992 Disney musical release. “I feel like I’m getting a personal dream come true as well.”
The production of “West Side Story” will lead be Mark Madama (who directed The Lex’s production of “The Music Man” the prior year) and will feature Lexington-based Broadway performer Colton Ryan in the lead role of Tony.
Ryan truly developed in Lexington’s artistic community, graduating from Lafayette High School’s School of the Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA) before being featured as one of “Tomorrow’s Broadway Hopefuls” in The LEX’s “Concert With The Stars” collegiate ensemble. After finding success in New York with various stage, TV and film projects, most notably landing a role in the Broadway production “Dear Evan Hansen,” Colton returned as a headliner for “Concert With The Stars” in 2018.
In addition to simply looking forward to returning home to see family and enjoy a meal and a white Russian beverage at Charlie Brown’s, Ryan is also looking forward to what he said will be a “surreal” experience of sharing the stage with his former SCAPA theater teacher Paul Thomas, who plays Doc in the show.
As someone who came up with opportunities to perform with The LEX at age 17, Ryan is looking forward to sharing the stage with what could be the next ... well ... Colton Ryan.
“Not enough kids get to work at that level at that age,” he said. “Anything I can do to support the cause, I’m down for.”
Lyndy Franklin Smith hopes the summer season will help elevate Lexington to a go-to destination for theatre professionals. But each year, she gets the privilege of seeing young and local performers share the stage with Broadway-caliber talent and elevate their game, to the benefit of everyone involved and in attendance.
“You literally kind of witness it happening minute by minute, hour by hour in our rehearsals,” she said. “All of our young artists are soaking up every second of the process and watching these people who have been where they want to go, how they work, what their processes are like, what they bring to the table when they walk into a room and how their performances grow. To be the home of their launching pad, that is something we hope our Lexingtonians will love having right in their backyard.”
The Lexington Theatre Company’s 2019 Summer Season
West Side Story
When: 8 p.m. July 11-12; 2 and 8 p.m. July 13; 1 p.m. July 14
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 1-2; 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 3; 1 p.m. Aug. 4
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.
Purchase: Call 859-233-3535 or lexingtontheatrecompany.org