Bailey Ryon is living an actor’s dream.
In just two years, the Glen Rock performer went from doing community theater at Lancaster’s Fulton Opera House to landing a lead role on Broadway.
Throughout her acting career, Ryon has performed with a national touring musical on stages across the country. And in 2013, she won a special Tony Award – the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre – for her performance in Broadway’s “Matilda: The Musical.”
Oh, yeah. And did we mention she’s only 13 years old?
Ryon, a student at Southern Middle School in Glen Rock, has accomplished more before her 14th birthday than many aspiring actors accomplish in a lifetime.
But to her, it’s no big deal.
“I didn’t know it was unusual for a first-grader to be able to sing,” she said.
She performed her first show – “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” – at Fulton Opera House when she was just 7 years old. And by age 8, she’d already caught the eye of an agent who encouraged her to try out for her first major role as Cindy Lou Who in the national touring production of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”
When she booked the gig after her very first audition, she thought nothing of it.
“I was just like, ‘Ok, I got it,’ figuring it was a normal thing that happened,” she said.
Maybe it felt normal at the time.
But when you’re 13 years old and have a Tony Honors for Excellence in Theater on your living room shelf and a Grammy nomination for the "Matilda: The Musical" soundtrack on your resume, life just isn’t normal.
After a successful run on Broadway, Ryon is now preparing for her next theater gig.
She’ll perform her dream role as the lead character Mary Lennox in the Arden Theatre Company’s production of “The Secret Garden” in Philadelphia this month.
While it’s not Broadway, Ryon said she’s still very excited.
“This has been a really fun experience, actually,” she said. “When I did ‘Matilda’ … I didn’t have a say in anything. But with (‘The Secret Garden’) director, we’ll go through a scene without direction and do what feels natural. Sometimes, he’ll change things or sometimes leave it the same. Or he’ll let us put in our own ideas.”
Ryon said she’s loved every minute of the experience – even the grueling eight-hour rehearsals on top of four hours of schoolwork every day.
“This has been my absolute favorite musical ever since I was little,” she said.
It tells the story of 10-year-old Mary Lennox who is sent to live with an uncle she’s never met after the sudden death of her parents. When she arrives, she finds the place cold and bleak and her uncle, strange and distant. So she seeks comfort in a locked-up, hidden garden.
“It’s a really beautiful play," she said.
Ryon and her mom used to play the Broadway soundtrack in the car every time they’d go for long drives, and she quickly fell in love with Mary Lennox’s character.
“I love that she’s very curious,” Ryon said. “She asks many questions … I’ve been dreaming ever since I was little to play this role.”
The musical will run from May 12 to June 19.
Visit www.ardentheatre.org for tickets.
If you go
What: “The Secret Garden”
When: May 12-June 19
Where: Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. Second St., Philadelphia
More information: Visit www.ardentheatre.org or call 215-922-1122.