Ryan Shirar is departing for Cincinnati

Ryan Shirar conducts a 2005 rehearsal of Paragon Music Theatre's "Anything Goes." © Lexington Herald-Leader photo by Brian Tietz.

Ryan Shirar conducts a 2005 rehearsal of Paragon Music Theatre's production of "Anything Goes." © Lexington Herald-Leader photo by Bryan Tietz.

Paragon Music Theatre has announced that founder Ryan Shirar will step down as the company’s music director and executive director after its May production of Gypsy to accept a full scholarship for graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Shirar founded Paragon in 2004 with stage director Tracey Bonner, who departed after the inaugural production of State Fair at the Lexington Opera House (She returned to Lexington last year to direct SummerFest’s production of Rent). He then led the company, for a few years with stage director Michael Friedman until 2009 when current dramatic chief Robyn Peterman-Zahn joined the leadership team that includes choregorapher Diana Evans Pulliam. Under Shirar’s direction, the company has presented musicals big, like last summer’s Sound of Music at the Lexington Opera House, and small, like a charming 2007 production of She Loves Me at the Downtown Arts Center.

The theater filled a huge void in the Lexington arts scene, which had not had a group dedicated to musical theater since Lexington Musical Theatre closed in 1996.

Shirar has worked extensively outside of Paragon as a pianist, conductor and arranger with groups including the Lexington Philharmonic and teaching at Berea College and the University of Kentucky.

Though he has seemed very comfortable in his multiple local roles, Shirar did allow in a 2005 interview that, “I don’t want to wake up someday and regret not having tried something bigger.”

Gypsy will be presented May 13 to 15 at the Lexington Opera House. The Paragon press releases states that after Gypsy, “future plans for Paragon are uncertain.”

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