The hit musical Bring It On, now at Broadway's St. James Theater, boasts over 25 actors making their Broadway debuts. But on many nights, all eyes have been on Rialto newcomer Ryann Redmond, who portrays cheerleader wannabe Bridget.
That may be in part because the 23-year-old actress totally relates to her character -- as does Bridget's creator, Tony Award-winning librettist Jeff Whitty. "Jeff told me once, ‘Everybody's a little bit Bridget. I wrote Bridget because I'm Bridget,'" says the Georgia-bred actress.
"I agree with Jeff. Everyone can see themselves in her. We're all socially odd, goofy, and awkward at times. Like Bridget, I had to learn to fend for myself in middle school, where I was made fun of by a lot of the girls. I had a mouth and was always ready with a comeback. A lot of my comedy is rooted in my high school sarcasm and quick wit."
Like Redmond, Bridget may be sharp-tongued, but she's also lovable. And audiences don't mind writing Redmond to let her know how much they love her character. "Maybe it's because she's the underdog, the one who never gets chosen that they really root for her," says Redmond. "That kind of response helps me feel I'm in touch with Bridget."
While Redmond has gotten used to the sound of applause, she was a relatively late theater bloomer. Instead, she was obsessive about softball as a youngster, and played in numerous competitive tournaments. "But something hit me in middle school. As much as I loved softball, I decided to try something new," she says. "I began singing at 14, and then I just couldn't stop."
She auditioned for her school production of Annie, but didn't get the lead. "I had Andrea McArdle [the original Annie] on repeat, trying to copy her," reveals Redmond. "But I got the role of Mr. Bundles, the laundry man, instead. I bilked his three lines for all they were worth!"
While a high school sophomore, Redmond heard about the Broadway Dreams Foundation, a non-profit arts training program dedicated to mentoring young artists interested in musical theater." I attended a weekend workshop on audition technique and ended up with a scholarship. It was an unbeatable experience," says Redmond, who has continued to work with the foundation to this day and now acts in the role of mentor.
After graduating high school, Redmond was accepted into NYU's prestigious Cap21 program. "I found what I was lacking, vocal training and acting technique," she says. "Working in an amazing collaborative atmosphere, I learned about my voice – what I could and could not do. But I wasn't pigeon-holed; I was allowed to do everything." Indeed, she got to play Maria in The Sound of Music, performed in concerts at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, and worked with award-winning composer and director Elizabeth Swados.
Her career took off while she was at NYU and performing in a Broadway Dreams holiday benefit, where she caught the eye of renowned casting director Bernard Telsey. "He caught up with me and we chatted. The next day he had me come in to read for Bridget," she recalls. "The rest is, as they say, history. I'm one very lucky gal!"
Ever since, Redmond has been part of the musical's long journey, which began at Atlanta's Alliance Theater in 2011; the show then played a 13-city national tour before arriving on Broadway in July of this year. (The show's original cast album was just released on Tuesday, September 25.)
Now, thanks to the extension of Bring It On! into January, Redmond is looking forward to spending some more time up north. "I just love the cold!" she says with anticipation. She might even find time to have a date. "Dating? What's that?" she says with a laugh. "I'll have to make that one of my goals."
But even without a special man around, Redmond has plenty of companionship! "Our cast is just a bunch of kids on Broadway who have become a loving family since we've been together such a long time and shared so much," she says. "We pinch ourselves all the time because it's hard to believe we're in this hit show and on Broadway. I still get a rush when I walk by the theater and see my face on the wall."