Ryan Quinn, Musician

Utica has a small and mutually supportive community of performing artists; many have been performing together in various combinations for years and they still welcome new members with open hearts. Last night at Players of Utica was no exception, during a short cabaret following the main stage show. The audience was enthusiastic (too bad it was so hard to hear the singers over the A/C roar.) Everyone sang one number, and the program consisted largely of newer voices, or at least ones I was less familiar with. All were greeted by the friendliest reception from the packed house, and it appears the arts are alive and well in our little town.

The biggest thrill I get in show business is when somebody catches me entirely by surprise. Some of my best theatrical memories include seeing Sarah Ziegler perform for the first time at Spring Farm Cares; Megan Zuck (and I may have her first name entirely wrong by now) channeling Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis; Mason McDowell picking and choosing from Billy Joel, Randy Newman, and Stephen Sondheim and integrating them seamlessly into something his own…

Last night I heard Ryan Quinn sing Heaven on Their Minds from Jesus Christ Superstar, and if I hadn’t been rivited to the edge of my seat he would have blown me away. This isn’t careless hyperbole, just inadequate vocabulary on my part. Where most young singers try to out-belt Murray Head, Quinn held back, and when he finally nailed it he revealed himself the better singer over the original. His intricate phrasing verged on reinterpretation, except it never sacrificed the music, the way so many singers tend to when they veer off-road. Quinn’s YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/RyQuin7850/videos) gives an idea about how he is developing, and it struck me as I watched last night that his unique stage presence owes something to the limitations and potential of modern social media. Where a traditional approach tries to establish a connection with the audience, Ryan seemed almost indifferent to those in the room; his main audience was somewhere else, as if he sang for his own amusement but didn’t mind if others felt like eavesdropping. The sideways grins and occasional handclaps didn’t come across as self-conscious or mannered, but played as the joy of someone in his own musical moment, not taking any of it too seriously. I’d be interested in how he approaches an actual character, but I’d be disappointed if he plays somebody less quirky and interesting than himself.