Ric Ryder's Rules for Aspiring Broadway Stars
Ric Ryder has appeared on Broadway seven times. This impressive sum includes starring opposite the legendary Carole King in Blood Brothers, and playing a lead in Grease! (with Rosie O’Donnell). In addition, Ric has traveled the country on several national tours, and lent his voice to Disney animated feature films. His glittering performance experience is complimented by the 15 years of teaching under his belt. Ric has inspired hopeful performers with his teaching at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, CAP21, Catholic University and in master class settings all over the world.
Currently, Mr. Ryder is on staff at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York and teaches voice privately. He generously took a moment from work to speak to us about his career and what aspiring Broadway professionals can do to succeed…
RP: You've got a ton of Broadway, Off-Broadway and Tour credits on your resume. Which opportunity would you say you learned the most from and why?
RR: Two shows come to mind; the national [tour] of Grease! and the Broadway production of Blood Brothers. I also did Grease! on Broadway, but the tour taught me about taking care of myself and having a life while I had to constantly create a new comfort zone playing lot’s of one week-er’s with long travel days. It could be exhausting but I loved it. However, their came a time when I stopped enjoying it as much so it also taught me when it was time to leave the party. I had one of the title roles in Blood Brothers and that came with unwritten responsibility. It taught me the value of showing up, being consistent and leadership by example.
RP: What's something people don't realize about being on Broadway and performing 7+ nights a week?
RR: In an interview once, Nathan Lane was responding to missing shows during the run of The Producer’s which incidentally further ignited the career of his understudy, Brad Oscar, who was already Tony-nominated for his performance in that show. Mr. Lane had a respiratory illness and got behind the 8 Ball with the 8 show/6 day-a-week schedule. He made reference to being “trapped in a hit” because of his extraordinarily demanding role. I identified immediately because everything thing you do, every decision you make is based on how that affects your ability to go to work that day; auditions, rehearsals, gym, errands etc. You only have one full day a week to recover from EVERYTHING so you begin to look at that precious day off in terms of hours. Sunday matinee curtain call to Tuesday’s 7:30 half-hour. All that said, I LOVE being trapped in a hit!
RP: What do you think people can do to nail a singing audition or stand out at an open call?
RR: That’s really tough with 16 Bars (easier with 32 or a short selection). I understand this more from a teaching perspective because my 16 bar days are pretty far behind me! It has to be the right 16 Bars - and doing whatever you can to fashion an ending. The single best advise, even with 16 Bars, is not to play the ending… Honestly, even though the end is going to happen seconds after you begin! Breathe and DON’T RUSH. Relax. Treat it like a song and don’t come out of it until the pianist takes their hands off the keys or foot off the peddle. Similarly, the right cut of a short selection is imperative. Taking a journey with a real ending is so important.
RP: As a vocal coach, is there a common issue or poor habit you see among your students when they first come to you?
RR: In regard to technique, breath is the most misunderstood and sometimes difficult thing to teach. Otherwise, poor or no understanding of vocal hygiene/ how to take care of your voice.
RP: What should Singers look for in a "warm up”?
RR: First, I’d like to delineate “warm-up” and “practicing” for a voice lesson when you work technique/rep with a recording of your lesson. When you’re practicing your lesson/learning rep, that should take as long as it takes and as often as you decide works for you. In regard to a warm-up, I’ll use my own as an example. It’s physical and vocal and can take anywhere from 5 to no more than 10 minutes tops. It involves some simple stretching and not more than 5-6 minutes of singing. It starts with a combo of humming, lip and tongue trills on 5 note runs from mid-voice moving down then expanding to 9 note run going up on closed vowels and down on open vowels like EE-AE then AE-AH moving up then reverse the vowels. I’ll walk away from that and maybe do one big forte run just before I leave to sing. That’s it, then I can sing easily. My voice likes the morning and I’ve done a variation of that warm-up nearly every day whether or not I have to since college. It’s what makes me feel good- feel right.
RP: Can you speak to how important it is to connect with the song your singing and not just to hit the notes perfectly?
RR: Absolutely! If you’re having trouble connecting to your material, you have to address that immediately. That’s what anyone who’s listening to you wants from you- whether or not they know it- people want to feel something. Something that helped me was to making it personal- I have to be the one delivering my song, not some made up character. Infuse yourself, some of your own sensibilities.
You’ll find how versatile your material is. Rarely has your material become stale, you have… ;-) Pretty voices are plentiful. Get into a class, understand empathy, experiment and allow yourself the vulnerability to be taught by a teacher you trust. I’ve been singing the same several songs for longer than I’m going to admit. Keeping our material clean, fresh, honest and true to the composition is our job.
RP: What's the best way to maintain the strength of your voice and keep it in shape? What did you do when you were on Broadway?
RR: There’s nothing like a good ole’ 8 show week to keep you in shape! That and sensible daily decisions with a good knowledge of vocal hygiene. Vocal hygiene means understanding what you might be allergic to and how is it best treated. Do you have acid reflux? Get in front of anything that gets in the way of your singing. Humidifiers (if you keep them clean) are your best friend!
RP: Obviously, being on Broadway is a dream for most actors. Do you have any words of wisdom for those hoping to grace the great white way?
RR: These are great questions and this makes me think that whatever your path to
Broadway may be, it’s likely going to be filled with lots of ups and downs. That said, my first two professional gigs in NYC were Broadway shows. However, the first, Senator Joe, closed in previews - that’s why you’ve never heard of it! The second was Starmites, which put its notice up the day after the Tony Awards. We were nominated for 7 Tony’s, and closed 3 months after previews started. Show biz!
Circling back to your question, this may sound airy-fairy but you HAVE TO
ENJOY THE JOURNEY and most importantly, STUDY THE CRAFT. If it’s not happening the way you want it to, suss out other paths to your goals by creating your own work, commercials, print, TV/Film, V/O, jingles, Cabaret etc. Musical
Theatre and being an actor goes to my core. I found teaching by accident and was stunned to find how important it became to me. Soon enough I realized that teaching was also an art so I continue to study as a teacher as well as a student.
RP: To end on an inspiring note, what would you say is your number one piece of advice for aspiring Singers/ Performers in NYC?
RR: If you can say that being an actor is the most important thing to you and that doing what it takes (legally and morally) to be the best you can is your primary purpose then you have to do it! You owe it to yourself. Study, audition a lot - don’t wait to be “ready”. Take care of your body - it’s your instrument. If you’re thinking about going to college and you’re conflicted about what to study but think you want to be a musical theatre performer then make it your major. Most of the other serious contenders did- more than likely, you’ll be behind if you don’t.
For more on Ric, check out: www.RicRyder.com.