Lo­rain Co. na­tive turns star

Ac­tor John Rid­dle re­flects on star­ring role as Hans in “Frozen” on Broad­way

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jor­dana Joy [email protected]­ingjour­nal.com @MJ_Jor­danaJoy on Twit­ter

VER­MIL­ION

“Broad­way is al­ways my home; it will al­ways be my num­ber one pas­sion,” he said. Rid­dle said his ca­reer in mu­sic and the­ater be­gan when he was about five years old, when his par­ents, Heidi and John Rid­dle, put he and his sis­ter Me­gan in pi­ano lessons in Ober­lin. “I took them ev­ery week, from five years old to high school,”

John Rid­dle may take one of the big­gest stages in the world al­most ev­ery night, but he still brings his small town men­tal­ity with him to ev­ery per­for­mance. Born and raised in Ver­mil­ion, Rid­dle, 29, fol­lowed his pas­sion for the­ater all the way to the Big Ap­ple, now star­ring as Hans in the Broad­way show “Frozen.” Rid­dle said. “I was al­ways im­mersed in that mu­sic world through Ober­lin.” Ad­di­tion­ally, he also be­came in­volved with the Ober­lin Cho­ris­ters, a trav­el­ing chil­dren’s choir and even­tu­ally the BGSU Fire­lands Col­lege The­atre in Huron and work­ing at the Huron Play­house dur­ing the sum­mer.

“He loved to act out with any sort of mu­si­cal movies,” said Heidi Rid­dle, 63, on her son’s bud­ding pas­sion in the­ater. “Whether it was ‘Mary Pop­pins’ or ‘The Lit­tle Mer­maid,’ he would sing along, dress up, act as the char­ac­ters. That’s when we knew.” How­ever, Rid­dle said he didn’t of­fi­cially “catch the the­ater bug” un­til see­ing a pro­duc­tion of ‘Phan­tom of the Opera’ ‘in Toronto when he was five. “I was just mes­mer­ized,” he said. “My dad said I sat there for all three hours of the show and didn’t say a word. When we were walk­ing out, I was retelling all the parts of the show and even my dad was like, ‘I didn’t even see half of that stuff.’” From then on, Rid­dle con­tin­ued with mu­sic lessons, but dropped the­ater in mid­dle school to pur­sue soc­cer and bas­ket­ball.

Pas­sion for the­ater

While at Ver­mil­ion High School, Rid­dle said he be­came more in­volved in the school’s the­ater through the show choir, which put on a fall and win­ter play, as well as a spring mu­si­cal. “I was ac­tu­ally plan­ning on be­ing an ar­chi­tect (in the be­gin­ning of high school),” he said. “Be­ing an ac­tor, it didn’t re­ally feel like some­thing that was fea­si­ble.” It wasn’t un­til his sopho­more year when he landed a cou­ple gigs with the Beck Cen­ter for the Arts in Lake­wood that he se­ri­ously picked up the­ater again. Upon grad­u­at­ing from Ver­mil­ion High, Rid­dle at­tended the Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic at the Univer­sity of Cincin­nati, where he grad­u­ated in 2012. “When he de­cided to go to Cincin­nati, he said, ‘Mom, I have to fol­low my pas­sion, and my pas­sion is mu­sic the­ater,’” Heidi Rid­dle said. Dur­ing his time at the Univer­sity of Cincin­nati, Rid­dle said he was able to work at The Muny in St. Louis dur­ing the sum­mers in its en­sem­ble, which al­lowed him some time to net­work. “They bring in lots of Broad­way tal­ent and direc­tors, so I was sur­rounded by big-name artists,” Rid­dle said.

First job

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, Rid­dle hired an agent and im­me­di­ately moved to New York, work­ing as a sail­ing in­struc­tor for the first 10 months be­fore he landed a gig. He said he was lucky to find work that he en­joyed while do­ing auditions, since his fam­ily were big sail­boat rac­ers. Ev­i­dently enough, his first au­di­tion out of col­lege was for the Broad­way pro­duc­tion of “Phan­tom of the Opera,” Rid­dle said. Af­ter land­ing a part in the seven-month na­tional tour of “Evita” in 2013 and play­ing in the Kennedy Cen­ter’s pro­duc­tion of “Lit­tle Dancer” out of Washington, D.C., Rid­dle landed his first Broad­way show, “The Visit” in 2015, play­ing the role of Young An­ton. “It was this in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence, work­ing with some of the leg­ends on Broad­way, like Fred Ebb, who wrote mu­sic for ‘Chicago,’” he said, adding it was his fa­vorite show he ever per­formed in. “I was work­ing with the greats right off the back. “I was one of the youngest in the cast. I just learned so much about the le­gacy of the the­ater, show­ing up and do­ing all eight shows like it’s the first time you’ve ever done it, the pride they bring to what they do. “This is an old art form, liv­ing on through the peo­ple who have car­ried the torch.” Now, Rid­dle has played Hans in the Broad­way pro­duc­tion “Frozen” since it pre­miered in March 2018. Heidi Rid­dle said the whole fam­ily of 24 showed up to the premier of the show.

“It’s one of those things that are hard to de­scribe,” she said. “Just one of those once in a life­time things.” A work sched­ule on Broad­way is gru­el­ing, work­ing eight shows in six days, he said. “It’s a long, long week,” Rid­dle said. With his Broad­way con­tract ex­pir­ing in a few short weeks, Rid­dle said he’s look­ing to pur­sue work in tele­vi­sion as a break from the Broad­way sched­ule. He said what gets him through each week, how­ever, he learned in small town Ver­mil­ion, when his par­ents urged him to go to school and per­form well, even when sick. “I think that’s re­ally served my pro­fes­sion well,” Rid­dle said. “You just gotta show up. My par­ents re­ally in­stilled that in me and that work ethic is so im­por­tant. “As an ac­tor, it’s not an easy pro­fes­sion. There’s a lot of heartbreak and re­jec­tion. The highs are re­ally high and the lows are re­ally low. “But I have to work through all of that, fac­ing re­jec­tion and pulling your­self up by your boot­straps and meet­ing the de­mands of your work.”

COUR­TESY — DEEN VAN MEER

Patti Murin, left, and Rid­dle in the Broad­way show “Frozen.”

Rid­dle

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