Colby Dezelick '16 is preparing to perform in 'Miss Saigon'
Anthony Stoeckert

Colby Dezelick '16

Colby Dezelick '16 had a lot to celebrate in 2016. In May, he graduated with a bachelor's in musical theater from Rider University and, by the end of the year, he landed his first Broadway role.

Dezelick is now hard at work rehearsing for the Broadway revival of “Miss Saigon,” which is set to begin previews March 1. Dezelick is in the ensemble and also serves as the understudy for the lead role of Chris.

“It’s a little unreal,” he says of his new job. “It’s one of those things I’m sure anyone in the theater community dreams of. When I go to rehearsal, it feels like rehearsing for any show I’ve ever done, but I have those moments when I realize the level of work I'm getting to do every single day. I don’t know that it’s really sunk in for me yet.”

Dezelick has made it to Broadway thanks in part to his work at Rider. He found out about Rider’s theater program through a voice teacher and fell in love with the university when he visited.

“I met the faculty, who were great and very personable and very excited about the prospects of the theater program,” he says. “I met the students and they were great. I had a fantastic time there. I spent four years loving all of the classes and the faculty and making some great friends. And it definitely prepared me for an actual career in the real world.”

One of the best parts of studying at Rider was being able to perform in the acclaimed shows the theater department stages. He appeared in musicals such as “All Shook Up” and “Spring Awakening.”

“Certainly the type of material that we got to work on in college was amazing,” he says. “There were always one or two shows a year that were incredibly ambitious for a college, so it’s great for a student to even be able to work on that kind of material.”

He even presented three workshop performances of his own musical, “Between the Lines,” about a young artist seeking to find her way in the world. He started writing it in his freshman year, then presented performances of it on campus in his sophomore, junior and senior years.

Dezelick has worked at regional theaters in St. Louis and Connecticut and will soon be appearing in one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Based on the opera “Madame Butterfly,” “Miss Saigon” is a love story set during the Vietnam War. A woman named Kim is trying to survive life in her war-torn country and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris.

“Unfortunately, the war gets in the way and tears them apart,” Dezelick says. “It’s about the struggles she goes through. There are a lot of challenges she has to face, so the show is about the trials and tribulations of their star-crossed lover's story.”

Although he has never seen “Miss Saigon,” Dezelick is very familiar with a key song sung by Chris, “Why, God, Why?” which he worked on at Rider with Mariann Cook, a professor of music theater voice at Rider’s Westminster School of the Arts.

“It’s one of those songs I started working on probably my sophomore or junior year, and it was a big challenge at first,” he says. “We worked on it all the time, and then I ended up singing it for a couple of auditions and now here I am covering the role on Broadway.”

Dezelick grew up in northern Virginia, outside Washington, D.C. His mother was a preschool teacher and his father worked in computers and analytics. He says both of his parents are creative and encouraged a love of the arts in their children. When Dezelick’s sister started taking dance lessons, he followed in her footsteps, and that led to him pursuing theater.

As if acting, singing, dancing and writing a musical isn’t enough, Dezelick is also a musician.

“I was always interested in music,” he says. “I’m the kind of person where if I’m interested in something, I’ll lock myself in a room and learn everything I can about it. That’s how I taught myself how to play piano and guitar. That was another main reason I really wanted to go to Rider, because there I was able to actually explore my parallel passion of music that coincided with musical theater.”