21: Reilly Richardson has Grand Night‘s number

Reilly Richardson performs the song "Cell Block Tango" from the musical "Chicago" in Grand Night for Singing.

Reilly Richardson performs “Cell Block Tango” from the musical “Chicago” in Grand Night for Singing. © Herald-Leader staff photos by Rich Copley.

Photo gallery: It’s a Grand Night for Singing 2013.

The University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s annual show-tunes and pop-song revue, It’s a Grand Night for Singing, is 21 this year. So is Reilly Richardson.

As one of the lead performers in the production, Richardson is embracing its theme of maturity.

“It goes with the 21st theme really well,” says Richardson, a Lexington native and senior theater major at the University of Michigan. “A lot of it’s coming-of-age stuff, or more risqué.”

Lexington has watched Richardson grow up, particularly through her performances in Lexington Children’s Theatre’s shows including the summer family musicals — namely two productions of Annie and the 2007 edition of Beauty and the Beast, in which she played Belle and her father, Jim Richardson, played Belle’s father, Maurice.

Richardson in the Grand Night performance of "Time Warp."

Richardson in the Grand Night performance of “Time Warp.”

Those productions revealed a burgeoning talent who was a student at the School for Creative and Performing Arts before she went to the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan for her junior and senior years. Her search for a college quickly led her to the University of Michigan, one of the top theater programs in the country.

Though there are numerous opportunities for Michigan theater students to work and participate in summer programs to enhance their résumés, this is the second summer Richardson has come home to be in Grand Night, a show she decided she wanted to participate in after seeing her dad in it after her senior year of high school.

“I love Grand Night,” says Richardson, who is in her second Grand Night. “I think it’s the best thing in the world. The people working on Grand Night are some of the most qualified and talented people in this area, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it and to get to work closely with them.”

Among them is Lyndy Franklin Smith, choreographer for Grand Night along with her husband, Jeromy Smith, who has already traveled the path Richardson hopes to complete, from Lexington stages to Broadway.

“I saw her on Broadway, in Chorus Line, and they are just amazing,” Richardson says of the Smiths. “They take 60 people and make them all look good on stage.”

Richardson at the front of the chorus line for "Fascinatin' Rhythm."

Richardson at the front of the chorus line for “Fascinatin’ Rhythm.”

Often, this year, Richardson is leading those large groups, dancing at the front of the stage in production numbers including Fascinatin’ Rhythm and the Rocky Horror Show classic Time Warp. But there are also spotlight numbers where she gets to strut her stuff, literally in the Chicago number Cell Block Tango, I Never Met a Wolf from the NBC series Smash and the Chorus Line classic Nothing.

Richardson sings "Nothing" from "A Chorus Line," a song she says hits close to home.

Richardson sings “Nothing” from “A Chorus Line,” a song she says hits close to home.

“It hits very close to home,” Richardson says of the last song, in which an actress reflects on persevering over an absurd high school acting class. “Anyone who’s tried to be an actress or worked really hard to get somewhere has had this type of experience where you’re told you’re not good enough and then one day you realize you can do it.”

That is something Richardson is happy to bring home: the skills of a young artist confident she has found her calling and now focused on finding a way to turn it into a living.

She will return to Michigan next month to be in the world premiere of a play by Michigan graduate Alex Kip. Then she’ll start her senior year, full of career-setting opportunities including a New York showcase.

“It feels like it was just yesterday my dad and I were moving into the dorms, and I was meeting my class for the first time,” Richardson says. “It’s less than a year away, I’ll be living in New York and auditioning all the time. Constantly.”

So she’s savoring what could be a Lexington swan song, for now.

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