Palisadian Wyn Delano Finds His Star in Theater

By Lila Seidman
Special to the Palisades News 

Living in Washington, D.C. and about to embark on a national tour of the fresh-off-Broadway musical Amazing Grace, one-time Palisadian Wyn Delano said his story is ultimately “nice and local.”

Before his live theater and voice acting credits started piling up, Delano, who turns 25 in September, had his first taste of the stage as a fifth grader at Marquez Charter Elementary. His teacher, Jeff Lantos, “had this wild idea” to teach his students history by having them perform history-based musicals.

After portraying George Washington in a Lantos production called “Miracle in Philadelphia” about the Constitutional Convention, someone suggested he check out the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in nearby Santa Monica.

“That place became my home,” Delano said. The community theater’s producers, Anne and Larry Gesling, “were like second parents to me.”

Wyn Delano stars in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” on the East Coast.

From about the age of 10 to 18, Delano performed in the theater’s youth musicals once, sometimes twice, a year.

He likened his relationship with live theater to a romance, beginning with its intoxicating initial stages before deepening over time: “At first it’s just exciting and really engaging, and you’re just kind of swept up off your feet by all of the stuff that’s novel about it. And then, as you keep doing it, you start to learn more about why you like what you do.”

“Now I can say I really love live theater because there’s a connection that you can have with someone that’s watching a show that’s unlike anything else we do today,” he added.

Delano’s parents—Palisades-based professional birthday clown Whirlie (aka Shari Nelson) and former rock-and-roll musician Rick Delano—were supportive, despite intimately comprehending the sacrifices, notably financial, associated with pursuing a career in the arts.

Delano said he grew up in a tiny one-bedroom near PCH and Sunset, and his decision to dedicate himself to theater at times tightened their budget further.

“Frankly, they understood because both of them had the bug, too,” Delano said of his parents. “They weren’t going to stop me, and I’m grateful for that.”

While attending Palisades High School, Delano’s rendition of the song “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha” earned him the title of Mr. Palisades— and some scholarship money.

According to him, he was teased for taking the contest too seriously—an attitude towards the craft he said he still can’t shake.

Dedication notwithstanding, Delano said he was rejected from all the performing arts programs he applied to as a high school senior. He spent a year working as a valet and bussing tables before his friend’s father and fellow actor and Palisadian Tom McGowan turned him onto the idea of applying to the theater program at Texas Christian University. They offered him a scholarship and off he went.

From there, “it’s all been stepping stones, from one to the other. Strange things and roundabout things working out,” he said.

One of those things was reconnecting with an old crush from his days in L.A. leading to a long-distance courtship. He and Leigh Delano married in December.

At TCU, a professor connected him to the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and its director Patrick A’Hearn.

Right after he graduated, he headed there to play a radio announcer in “The Buddy Holly Story.” Then-fiancé Leigh, a pianist and music director, taught him to play piano exclusively for the role.

Delano’s success landed him the role of Jud Fry in the theater’s production of “Oklahoma!” the following summer. Several media outlets in D.C. favorably noted his performance. More doors opened. A’Hearn offered him three contracts—the equivalent of nine months of employment—if he moved out east. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“I love surfing. That’s the one stereotypically Californian thing you’ll find left in me,” he said, half-joking as he reflected on his new identity as an East Coaster.

Fresh off a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue called “Some Enchanting Evening”, Delano is currently playing the lead role of Adam in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” before he hits the road with “Amazing Grace.”

“The reward for work is more work,” Delano said. For the displaced Palisadian, it’s a dream come true.

While Delano said he’s thrilled to be on the cusp of interacting “in a real way” with the New York Broadway theater scene in the upcoming tour, he maintained “my goal has always been to just be a working actor.”

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