Minnetonka Actor Takes Broadway

Recent MHS graduate, Ryan McCartan, was named best actor at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City.

“I would love a chance to be on Broadway!”

That’s what told Minnetonka Patch in January, when asked about his dreams for the future.

On Monday night, that dream became a reality.

“It was breathtaking to be alone on a Broadway stage for a full house. It was incredible,” McCartan said. “I was surprised how not nervous I was. I was comfortable and in my element—that was the most magical part of the night for me.”

And it was a night that included quite an honor for the recent graduate. McCartan won one of two “Jimmy Awards” during the third annual , which were held in New York City.

“I came off stage after I performed but before the winners were announced, and I thought to myself,  ‘Wow, that’s all I really needed,’” McCartan said.

To clinch the prestigious award, Ryan sang Jason Robert Brown's "Someone to Fall Back On" as his solo and was part of a medley from "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."  Ryan was the lead for that same show, last fall in Minnetonka.

McCartan was chosen "Best Actor" from a field that began with 50,000 students from 1,000 schools across the country.  

“I could not believe it. I stood there for a couple of seconds to make sure this was really happening,” McCartan said of the moment he was announced as winner. “I didn’t faint—so that was good.”

McCartan was selected to represent Minnesota along with Sarah Cartwright from Eastview High School through the . The two were chosen through a vigorous series of auditions and evaluations that resulted in their being selected as SpotLight Triple Threat Award winners, an honor that includes the privilege of going forward to the National Awards. As part of the national process, Cartwright and McCartan got private coaching and participated in master classes while in New York City.

Along with Minnesota’s McCartan and Cartwright, 48 other high school actors and actresses from around the county, also spent a week in rehearsals last week, preparing for last night’s show and awards.

A Special Night, A Huge Award

It was an event that almost didn’t come off, when a suspicious box brought activity in the uptown Manhattan area of the Minskoff Theater to a grinding halt. City police closed off streets and ushered patrons dining in theater district restaurants out of the eateries until a bomb squad could examine the package and declare the area safe.

But, as they say in the theater business, “the show must go on.” And it did. The Minskoff Theater didn’t open its doors until just a few minutes before show time. The crowd, which included McCartan's parents and older sister, was waiting to cheer on their favorite student thespians, and once they got the all clear, they quickly filed into the theater and took their seats.

The evening began with a production number by the entire cast showcasing music from current Broadway musicals.

“Billy Elliot” Tony Award-winner Gregory Jbara was the show's host. Dressed in casual wear, he gave the audience a chuckle when he received a call on his cell phone. “OK, Officer. Yes sir, I’ll pay the fine,” he said, then to the audience, “I left my tuxedo in a suitcase out on the street,” an off-handed reference to the suspicious package from earlier in the evening.

Susan Lee, executive director of the theater awards group, commented on the beginnings and growth of the awards program. Since its inception, she noted, a survey has indicated a marked increase in student participation in high school theater.  

After welcoming comments, performers were split into six ensembles –three mens’ groups and three womens’—who performed a medley of tunes from the plays that had earned them the privilege of competing. Then, one male, McCartan, and one female, Shauni Reutz of Wayne Central High School in Rochester, NY, were declared winners. 

“You know, the award means a lot of things,” McCartan said.  “It’s a big validation for me—it’s such a hard career, the arts. This means that maybe I am good enough, that my passion can take me somewhere. “

McCartan thanked his parents and older sister, “for making me” and said, “This is the only place I want to be.”

Past, Present and Future: McCartan's Success

It’s not the first time a dream has come true for the local star. Last winter, McCartan told Patch that he dreamed of being a Presidential Scholar in the Arts—the highest achievement a student artist can receive and an honor that would be presented by President Barack Obama, himself.

“The chance to meet Barack Obama is so far beyond my imagination,” McCartan said then.  “It’s a testament to really hard work.”

And McCartan was chosen as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts—one of only 20 in the nation. In June, McCartan traveled to Washington, D.C. for a White House ceremony, where he received a Presidential Scholars medallion from President Barack Obama.

“That means that the first time I’m going to vote, I’ll be voting for someone I have met personally,” McCartan said in June. “It’s really cool."

McCartan, who comes home to Minnesota tonight, told Patch that he has had to pull out of the which is scheduled to open in August.  

The reason? Later this week, he’s headed to Germany to film an episode of Bobby McFerrin's Master Class.

“I’m unbelievably excited for that,” he said.

McCartan started his professional career at age eight, playing at the Great American History Theater. He has continued to work extensively in the Twin Cities area including productions at , Chanhassen Dinner Theatre and the Guthrie Theatre. This fall, McCartan will enroll in the Guthrie/University of Minnesota BFA program, beginning fall 2011.

With two dreams achieved in the last six-months alone, McCartan said he’s just getting started.

“This award doesn’t mean I'm more talented with anyone it’s just a promise that I have to move forward in the arts,” he said. “It’s something I have to do.”


More information on the “Jimmy Awards”:

As winner, McCartan received a check for $10,000 and a chance for a scholarship to the Tisch School for the Arts at New York University.

The Jimmy Award is named for Broadway theater owner/producer Jimmy Nederlander, who established the National High School Music Theater Awards.

The organization's President Van Kaplan announced something new for next year:  the National High School Musical Theater Awards, WGPH in Pittsburgh and Public Television formed a partnership to broadcast the show on public television.


's Pat Bosha contributed to this article, reporting from the awards in New York City. 



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