A Tempting Opportunity

Ryan Hunt takes the stage in a national tour of "Ain’t Too Proud."

Ryan Hunt was born with theatrical genes – in fact, he was only seven months old when he first performed the University of Evansville stage. His story came full circle when he earned a bachelor’s degree in theatrical performance from UE. But it didn’t stop there.

Hunt currently performs as Shelly Berger in the first national tour of “Ain’t Too Proud.”

The Evansville native didn’t know he wanted to pursue the arts as a career until the 1995 EVSC musical production of “West Side Story.” He calls the EVSC summer musicals a gift because they are treated similarly to professional shows.

Photo of Ryan Hunt by R.M.Hunt Photography

“I looked at my mother one day, and I said, ‘Yes, this is what I’m going to do,’” he says. “And I think she knew that from the time I was born.”

After that, Hunt — the son of Rare Bird Gifts & Goods co-owner Cary Gray, herself an accomplished jazz musician — had a singular mindset toward that goal. He studied at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music for a year and then transferred home to UE.

“The University of Evansville has one of the top theater programs in the country for acting, and I was more than excited to study there,” he says. “I feel like what sets me apart even now is the way I approach acting choices, and I owe a lot of that to UE.”

During his senior year, he auditioned for the United Professional Theatre Auditions in Memphis, Tennessee, and booked a job with a repertory company in Tennessee for two seasons. From 2010 to 2014, he traveled the world as a performer on cruise ships. He visited 82 countries before returning to UPTA in 2015 and booking the role of Bill Austin in the national tour of “Mamma Mia!”

The show was produced by Worklight Productions, the same production company behind the 2016 national tour of “Cinderella,” in which Hunt played Sebastian. “Ain’t Too Proud,” which depicts the life and times of 1960s doo-wop group The Temptations, is Hunt’s third tour with Worklight Productions.

On the “Ain’t Too Proud” tour, the cast typically performs eight shows per week in one city. Hunt enjoys experiencing this time in different cities, particularly because he can explore during the day and take photographs – one of the joys of touring, he says.

As for the show itself, Hunt says it is the most unique experience he has ever had. His character is the manager for The Temptations, and Hunt is the only white performer in the show.

“It’s been such a blessing and a learning experience and an incredible thing to witness the show happen,” he says. “Every single night, the quality level of the show doesn’t change whether there’s an understudy or a swing. This company just works so hard all the time.”

Performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., is on the top of Hunt’s bucket list, and the tour makes a stop there in the middle of February. The tour finishes March 3 with a stop in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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