Local Tony-winning girl set to star in Philly musical

David Weissman

When 13-year-old Glen Rock native Bailey Ryon celebrates her 14th birthday in a couple of weeks, she'll do so in the midst of more than a month's worth of performances playing the lead in a Philadelphia musical.

Glen Rock native Bailey Ryon, 13, will star as Mary Lennox in Arden Theatre Company's production of "The Secret Garden" in Philadelphia.

Bailey, who won a special Tony Award for her portrayal of Matilda on Broadway in 2013, will play Mary Lennox in Arden Theatre Co.'s production of "The Secret Garden" during shows Thursday through June 19.

The seventh-grader started performing professionally when she was 9 years old as Cindy Lou Who in a touring production of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and Bailey said she's been rehearsing for her new role for about a month and a half.

A typical day for Bailey includes school or tutoring 8 a.m.-1 p.m., rehearsal 1-3 p.m., dinner 3-4 p.m. and rehearsal 4-8 p.m., she said. Late-night rehearsals have often lasted until 11 p.m. as the show's opening approaches, she added.

"The Secret Garden," originally a book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, centers around Mary Lennox, a 10-year-old sent to live with her uncle following the sudden death of her parents, according to Arden Theatre's website. Mary's uncle, whom she had never met, is distant and strange, but Mary finds solace working on her deceased aunt's secluded garden.

Bailey described her character as "a very interesting and curious girl." She said playing Mary has been her "dream role" for most of her life.

'Great attitude': Bailey got to fulfill another role recently by playing an acrobat in Susquehannock High School's production of "Pippin," she said.

Will Jenkins, director of the Susquehannock musical, said he was surprised when he first heard Bailey was interested, but he quickly found out why she had proven so successful.

"She has a great attitude about everything," he said. "Directors are always looking for people that are easy to work with, and she does exactly what you tell her to do."

Jenkins said he had never worked with an actor or actress with Bailey's pedigree, and he's hopeful he'll have more opportunities when she reaches high school.

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Broadway: Bailey is best known in the theater community for playing the lead in "Matilda" on Broadway for approximately 18 months.

"It was amazing," Bailey said of starring on Broadway. "I didn't realize how big of a deal it was until it started."

Bailey was one of four girls cast in the role, and all four shared a special award, the Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theater, for their performance.

When she went back to middle school in Glen Rock, Bailey said her friends would often play "Matilda" songs near her.

Bailey is still close with the friends she made from "Matilda," and she's made an immediate connection with other cast members of "The Secret Garden," she said.

The 13-year-old has tried out for other Broadway plays, but there are only a limited number of roles for actresses in her age bracket, she said.

"I definitely want to do this when I'm older," Bailey said of her love of acting.

Those interested in seeing Bailey perform in Philadelphia can purchase tickets through Arden Theatre's website, call the box office at (215) 922-1122 or visit at 40 N. Second St. in Old City, Philadelphia. Single price tickets are $36-50 with discounts available for groups of 15 or more, seniors, students, military and educators.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.