It was about a year ago that Ryan Axberg began rehearsals on his high school’s production of Young Frankenstein. Soon after, the show was nominated for several Jerry Herman Awards and Ryan was auditioning for the best leading male category. Since then he has graduated from high school, started classes at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), and come back to the Hollywood Pantages as one of our amazing ushers.
We caught up with Axberg just before his next shift at the theatre to chat with him about his experience in the musical theatre world and his journey from high school stage to The Jerry Herman Awards at the Hollywood Pantages.
Q: How did you catch the Musical Theatre bug?
Ryan: It all started in middle school. I wasn’t involved in the theatre world but my dad encouraged me to audition for Suessical the Musical. I got the part of a Wickersham Monkey Brother. It was how I found my group of friends, a place to belong. I continued to audition for the school musical every year after that.
Q: What is your favorite musical?
Ryan: Singing in the Rain both on stage and on film is a marvelous masterpiece.
Q: Tell us how you felt when you found out you had landed the part of Igor in Young Frankenstein.
Ryan: It was my senior year at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. The show had been announced (Young Frankenstein) at the end of the school year as next years musical. Originally I thought I wanted the role of Dr.Frankenstein but found myself identifying with Igor more. I’ve always been the best friend to my brother who ended up being Dr. Frankenstein so it worked out.
Q: How did you find out your school had chosen you to audition for best leading male in the Jerry Herman Awards?
Ryan: The only two male characters who were eligible from our school were Igor and Dr. Frankenstein. My brother had had the opportunity to go to the Jerry Herman Awards the year before. When I was chosen he was very understanding and not heartbroken at all.
Q: Describe your experience going through the Jerry Herman Award audition process. What was it like to audition in front of such notable judges like Kenny Ortega, Cathy Rigby, John Bowab, Kay Cole, and Lewis Wilkenfeld?
Ryan: I knew my material front and back so that kept me calm. I just had to be myself and perform. They said I performed great and that I had a great voice but I needed to be more confident with my physicality. I sang The “Old Red Hills of Home” from Parade and “Together Again” from Young Frankenstein for contrast and they said that they wanted to see more of a physicality difference between the two songs and to commit to everything 100,000%.
Q: When your school found out that they had been chosen to perform a production number from Young Frankenstein for the Jerry Herman Awards Ceremony and how did you prepare?
Ryan: I feel like having that opportunity was such and honor to bring our school, to show our spirit and our pride was wonderful. Young Frankenstein played in March and the Jerry Herman Awards were June 1st. So we had three mandatory rehearsals with the cast. We just worked it and shockingly enough no one forgot anything so our third rehearsal ended up getting canceled.
Q: How did your love of musical theatre help you decided to go to AMDA?
Ryan: I knew I was going to study theatre. When I am on the stage I feel so comfortable. I feel so in tuned with myself and my surroundings, I feel happy. That’s why I decided to pursue theatre and stick with it.
Q: After everything you went through with the Jerry Herman Awards you have decided to stick around as an usher at the Hollywood Pantages. How are you liking it?
Ryan: I have always loved the Pantages and it’s just down the street from my school. I thought it would be such a good opportunity getting to work where I performed for the Jerry Herman Awards. It’s kind of full circle.
Q: What advice would you have for a high school student interested in pursuing a career in musical theatre?
Ryan: If you have a passion for it it’s your duty to go for it!