Former Houstonian is out in New York City.
by Donalevan Maines
ONLY AVAILABLE ON THE WEB
John Ryan Del Bosque, the out actor from Houston who sings “I’m Gay” in the current off-Broadway revival of Let My People Come, heard someone else’s name called as Best Leading Actor at the Tommy Tune Awards for the 2006–2007 school year.
That isn’t what upset him. The most he’d hoped for was a Best Ensemble nomination, and his show at Klein Forest High School, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, had already achieved that and so much more.
Del Bosque was distraught because he couldn’t find a pencil backstage at the Hobby Center, where Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) is sponsoring this year’s 11th annual ceremony. The program honors musical theater productions at Houston-area schools.
“It’s a cool story,” Del Bosque says from his apartment in New York City. He tells it often to casting agents in the Big Apple, where he moved last fall after graduating from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.
The pencil was a big prop Del Bosque was going to use as the Peanuts character Charlie Brown in the show’s next number.
“I had set it on the ground, but what I didn’t know is that one of my classmates had picked it up, thinking I had left it on the ground by mistake,” he recalls. “I was freaking out. ‘I’m gonna go onstage with no pencil!’
“I heard the announcer say there was a tie. I thought they meant in the next category, Best Actress, and I was so excited because I thought my friend who played Lucy might win. They were never going to give it to a character actress, but if it was a tie, that meant she had a chance.”
But the tie was in the Best Actor category, and the co-winner was Del Bosque. “I was completely shocked! I thought I was done,” he says. In his acceptance speech, he spoke about running around backstage looking for the pencil.
“My family was close to the stage. I could see them jumping up and down,” he says. “It was like validation, for my parents as well. Telling your parents you want to major in musical theater isn’t the easiest thing. But you get this award and they think, ‘Oh, you can actually do this for a career.’ It was a very special moment in my life.”
Telling his parents he’s gay was another story. “I did that when I was fifteen,” says Del Bosque. “To this day, my family hasn’t accepted it 100 percent. It’s an unspoken thing between us.
“I accepted the role in Let My People Come because I get to sing ‘I’m Gay,’ which is about coming out to your parents. Every time I sing it, it touches home.”
At the show’s website, lmpcparty.com, Del Bosque and fellow cast members appear in an “It Gets Better” video for The Trevor Project.
“Let My People Come is a musical revue that caused a big scandal when it premiered in New York in 1974, because at the end of the show,” says Del Bosque, “the whole cast got naked.” Not so in the current production, at The Underground Lounge, 955 West End Ave. at 107th St. and Broadway. “The venue we are in doesn’t allow nudity,” he says.
Del Bosque is winning rave reviews for his performance. Michael Bart, covering shows for Between My Stage Life, an international education/media production company, wrote, “The powerhouse voice of the night was John Ryan Del Bosque. The range and intonation of this actor left you with chills. Close your eyes and you felt you were listening to Luther Vandross. Then, the next scene he was harmonizing like a boy band. And then did someone say [that] Adam Levine was in the house, for it sure sounded like him. John Ryan’s charisma on stage gave me pause to wonder how someone has not discovered this guy and put his name on the marquee.”
Blogging at TheatreMania.com, David Gordon praised the work of composer Earl Wilson Jr. Gordon celebrated “the discovery—or rediscovery—of Wilson’s actually-quite-marvelous score: hummable tunes with deliciously clever, unprintable lyrics, and, more than once, deep meaning. How a haunting, beautiful ballad like ‘I’m Gay,’ about a young man’s attempt to come out to his parents, has been lost until now to history is incredibly dismaying,” said Gordon.
Del Bosque was born June 27, 1989, in Houston. “I kind of always knew I was different,” he says. “The way other little boys play and the things they were talking about, I thought, ‘Man, I’m just not like that.’ As it is for so many others, I definitely found a safe haven in theater with other homosexuals. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’ve stayed with it so long.
“I wasn’t really bullied too much. Sure, people might have said some things, but not to my face. I was extremely lucky.
“I kind of came out in one swoop,” he adds. “I started off telling a friend. I thought that would be really hard, but it wasn’t at all. It was extremely easy, so I went on to the next person. When I got to my family, that was very hard.”
He learned about the Tommy Tune Awards when he saw a broadcast of the show on KTRK-TV Channel 13. “I really wanted to be a part of it. It became a goal of mine,” he says. “I remember how You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was a really small show, and we were going up against all these other shows with huge dance numbers. We were just hoping to get an ensemble nomination.”
On the day that nominations were announced, Del Bosqe says, “I walked in, and the whole classroom was in an uproar. Everybody was jumping around, so happy, the director had tears in his eyes. I said, ‘Did we get the ensemble nomination?’ and he said, ‘Yes, we got the ensemble nomination. We also got fourteen more.’
“It was really awesome. I definitely will never forget that.”
What: 11th Annual Tommy Tune Awards
When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 16
Where: The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby
Tickets: 713/558-8887 or [email protected]
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.