Sophomore Colby Dezelick aims for a career in musical theatre
Samantha Reed

Colby Dezelick (third from the left) in West Side Story at The Muny in St. Louis.

Colby Dezelick ’16 may have had stage fright during his younger years, but he certainly isn’t shy anymore. For many college students, summer means relaxing at the beach, catching up with old friends, maybe a summer class or job, but not for Colby. Instead of returning to his home town of Herndon, Va., Colby traveled to St. Louis, Mo., where he earned his Actor’s Equity Card at the renowned Muny Theatre. As if that wasn’t enough, he also spent a week in the Big Apple sitting in on rehearsals for Broadway’s newest hit Big Fish, now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre. In whatever spare time he had left, Colby managed to write a musical, Between the Lines, which had its world premiere in Rider’s Spitz Studio Theatre on September 14.

Colby began his life in the arts when he was 7, inspired by his sister’s love for dance. As he got older his training became more intense. He worked with three separate voice teachers before coming to Rider, including one who encouraged him to audition for Rider’s Musical Theatre program. During high school he performed in various musicals, which opened his eyes to how much he loved performing and inspired him to follow his passion to college.  Entering his sophomore year, Colby has the talent, dedication and experience that are putting him ahead of the game.

St. Louis
America’s oldest and largest outdoor theater, The Muny is one of the most sought-after summer stock companies by both college students and Broadway performers. Encouraged by Rider professor Robin Lewis, Colby went to an open-call audition, where he had to sing, dance and perform a monologue.  Out of the hundreds of people who auditioned, he was one of the few selected invited to work in two productions: Spamalot, in which he played a minstrel, and West Side Story, in which he played Diesel.  As a part of The Muny’s residency program, he was provided with a two-bedroom apartment within walking distance of rehearsal spaces. He says the experience was amazing; everyone was so kind and generous. During his time in St. Louis he worked beside such Broadway, film and television stars as John O’Hurley, Ken Page, Kyle Massey, Ben Davis and Eric Idle.

New York
A week after he finished at The Muny Colby headed to New York City to work with a few more Broadway greats. Thanks to Professor Lewis, he was invited to sit in on the first week of rehearsals for the New York production of Big Fish on Broadway. He got to watch Tony Award winners Susan Stroman, Andrew Lippa, Norbert Leo Butz, John August and many more work as director and choreographer, composer, and performers - all aspects of the theatre that Colby is interested in pursuing in one day. On his first day he watched a table read in which everyone involved in the production reads through the script together. 

He describes the read through as “one of the coolest, most surreal experiences to ever see - all the little moments come together. On Broadway it’s like magic, everything up on the stage all at once. It was amazing to see all the layers stripped away and view them one at a time. It reminds me of Adobe Photoshop, how you can piece things together one at a time. It’s incredible.”         

Between the Lines
Despite his busy summer Colby managed to find time to work on his one-act musical Between the Lines. He began writing the show last semester after being inspired by the voice of another Rider Musical Theatre major, Maria Garvey. He first heard Maria after Professor Mariann Cook brought their freshmen class together to work on their audition pieces in the Spitz Studio Theatre. He knew right away he wanted to work with Maria and her unique style, a voice resembling that of indie artists Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson. An important message of Between the Lines is that art is therapeutic. Maria plays a painter opposite another Rider Musical Theatre major Matthew Fairlee, who helps her grow as an artist and a person. 

Reflecting on this experience and working with the cast of performing arts majors, he says, “One of the great things about Rider is that the faculty and students help me. This would not happen anywhere else. I like writing and that they’re helping me hone in on my writing skills. Rider is the perfect place to nurture that and play around because we’re intimate and individualized. I’m fortunate enough now to put my own work up and share my art in a different way.”

Why Rider
One of the reasons Colby chose Rider over other great theatre schools, including Carnegie Mellon and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, is that spirit of individualism. He appreciates the great environment and the welcoming faculty. He didn’t want to be in a robotic, cookie cutter type program. He knows that Rider’s faculty really care about their students and their work, and he prefers the liberal arts college as opposed to a conservatory so he can learn to grow as an overall person as well. Thanks to all of the schools Rider has to offer, Colby can watch others learn and get involved in interests other than his, and to him that’s what is going to help make him a better actor and person. He’s fallen in love with the Alexander Technique workshop, taught by Meade Andrews, yet he can still go to his psychology class and learn something completely different with people he doesn’t know.

At Rider Colby’s been seen in Cole, the music of Cole Porter and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He’ll next to appear on the Rider stage as Zach in A Chorus Line, running November 21-24.