Artist Spotlight: Meet The Wanderers’ Ryan Morales

New to FST, Ryan Morales brings his interpretation of vocal harmony to the sounds of doo-wop & rock & roll. Ryan has performed in other productions of shows like Flashdance: The Musical, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, & Chicago. However, The Wanderers is his first Cabaret.

So we sat down with Ryan to learn more about his experiences with vocal harmony, his favorite songs to perform, and his second career as a health guru.

What did you know about vintage harmony groups, like the ones highlighted in The Wanderers, before starting the rehearsal process?

I was really familiar with well-known groups like The Four Seasons and The Temptations, as well as various songs from other groups. And I understood a bit about that doo-wops four-part harmony sound. But for me, the rehearsal room was a big learning opportunity. We work our way through so many different songs and different groups and really honor a big breadth of work. And getting to experience that doo-wop sound has taught me a ton about these groups in a really awesome, first-hand way.

In the show you get to sing several iconic songs, from “The Great Pretender” to “Happy Together.” Do you have a favorite song to perform? If so, what is it and why?

I think my favorite song is probably “The Great Pretender.” It’s a gorgeous ballad, it really sets up the show for me. It let’s the audience in on a bit of the kind of guy I play in the show. I really enjoy the counterpoint in the song as well – that sort of gruff, almost impervious guy, that underneath is crying out to the person he loves. I do have to say the biggest reason I love singing that song is the reaction from the audience. People know and love that song so well – I get people singing along every night, and they’ll even finish the final phrase before I do. Knowing that I get to sing my version of a song that folks love so dearly is a really awesome moment in the show for me each night.

Pictured (left to right): Ryan Morales and Travis Keith Battle. Photo by John Jones.

Is The Wanderers the first Cabaret that you’ve performed in? Tell us about the rehearsal and development process for this show.

Yes, The Wanderers is actually the first time I’ve performed in a Cabaret here at FST, or really a show of this type at all. Oftentimes as an actor, you’re playing a character but something really fun about this show is that it was written and adjusted with us in mind. We got to input and ask questions and even work with Catherine Randazzo, our director, to get things adjusted. Our personalities and perspectives really helped to guide the staging, the moments in the songs, and especially our interactions with each other and the audience.

The songs featured in The Wanderers all have tight, four-part harmonies and every voice is vital. What were some of the challenges that you and the rest of the cast faced when tackling this music?

I’m really fortunate and humbled to be working with such fantastic musicians. We spent several days in long music rehearsals when we first got here, learning every note and tuning together as a group. I really credit Minhui Lee, our music director, for pulling us all together and unifying our interpretation of the music. Because four guys, with different voices and different musical sensibilities – it would be really hard to come together and make the music we do without having that external ear guiding us. I think a big thing I personally struggle with at times is managing those more tired vocal days. We’ve got an excellent sound system, and with the mics we use, we can pull back on our singing and lean into the mic when needed. But it also means having to balance our vocal levels with the other guys, live and on stage. The living, breathing aspect of the show – where we can’t expect our voices to be at 100% all the time and we have to smartly adjust, I think is really difficult. Thankfully, we came into the run so well rehearsed and a really tight unit, that it feels challenging but very much doable.

Pictured (left to right): Jason Pintar, Ryan Morales, Travis Keith Battle, and Michael James Byrne. Photo by John Jones.

In addition to your work as a theater artist, you are also a fitness and wellness coach. How do these two roles intersect? Have you learned anything from your work as a coach that has strengthened your performance skills?

Yes! So I coach nutrition and fitness, and my clients are primarily actors or artists. The first thing I’ll say is that when you teach something, it really deepens your understanding of the topic. So coaching nutrition, especially, has really improved my own relationship to food. And as a performer, your relationship to how you eat and your body can really either increase the stress you experience on a day-to-day basis, or help to mitigate it. Which of course spills over into your artistic work. Another big crossover is that, despite what some folks might think, coaching is really collaborative work. My job when I’m on a call with a client isn’t to lecture them about healthy foods or get on them for not working out enough – it’s to get them thinking about healthy choices they could make. To get them really enrolled in the change and problem solving in creative ways. Much like we do in the rehearsal room. So taking that ego out of my work as a coach has really taught me how to take that ego out of the way I rehearse. To show up with a giving hand. To not need to have all the answers, but to be game and ready for anything.

The Wanderers is now playing in FST’s Court Cabaret. For tickets and more information, click here.