Jenn Lyon made it to Broadway.
The South Mecklenburg High School graduate is showcasing her comedic chops among a marquee ensemble cast in “Fish in the Dark,” the hot new Broadway comedy starring and written by “Seinfeld” co-creator, Larry David.
In previews since early February, the show opens March 5 and runs through June 7. It set records for highest advance sales for a Broadway straight play and the house record weekly gross sales at the Cort Theatre, according to BroadwayWorld.com.
“It’s incredible,” said Lyon with a laugh when reached by phone. “No pressure, right? It is an amazing experience already, and we are just starting.”
Lyon, 34, plays Michelle, the blond bombshell notary dating the brother of Larry David’s character, Norman. The play tells the story of Norman coming to terms with the impending death of his father, played by Broadway veteran Jerry Adler (“The Sopranos”), and grappling with the implications for his family. Headlining the cast are Rita Wilson, Rosie Perez, Lewis Stadlen and Jayne Houdyshell.
“These are people that I admired from the audience as incredible character actors when I first came to New York,” said Lyon, who said she has felt nervous, inspired and motivated while working alongside such a stellar cast. “While the show is in previews, I’ve come to learn to stay facile and enjoy the process. You can’t get married to the dialogue, as scenes are being reworked and rescripted in order to make the show stronger. I’m enjoying the entire process.”
Lyon is a long way from various day jobs – including pizza maker, ice cream parlor attendant, waitress – she had to make a living. She spent nearly 15 years sharpening her craft acting in regional theaters, cable television and self-produced videos before landing this role. It came after sending in an audition tape.
Her credits include recurring characters on the cable series “Justified” and “Saint George” and regional theater including La Jolla Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Seattle’s Act Theater and an appearance on Broadway in Tom Stoppard’s Tony Award winning trilogy, “Coast Of Utopia.”
Lyon’s love for theater grew while at South Meck, where she said she was inspired and encouraged from drama teachers Martha Guzman and Deb Curl.
“They made all the difference,” said Lyon, who performed in “Oklahoma,” “The Odd Couple” and other productions in high school. “They let us be teens, yet we were treated as professionals and opened up to this incredible world of theater.”
Lyon’s experiences at South Meck eventually led her to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, where she graduated with a fine arts degree.
“I left for New York three days after graduation,” she said. “My goal was simply to be a working actress, I never imagined myself on Broadway.”
She seems to be taking it all in stride, not allowing herself to be starstruck and instead learning from those around her.
“Larry David is such an incredible talent,” Lyon said. “To watch Larry and (director) Anna (Shapiro) work with the back and forth in the creative process is a wonderful experience. I don’t want to blow his cantankerous cover, but Larry has a very generous and giving spirit, always concerned about helping others shine. He’s also a very, very funny man – all the time.”
Next up for Lyon is a bit of a question mark. “After the show opens I’ll have my days free, so I can get back to auditioning. I know casting directors will be coming to the show, so I’m hopeful some great roles are out there for me.”
Though Lyon lives in Brooklyn, she manages to get back to Charlotte occasionally to visit her parents, Lydia and Ken Lyon. Her father is a Methodist minister in Matthews and her mother is a nurse. One guilty pleasure on her list with each return visit is Bojangles’ sweet tea.
“There’s nothing like it up here,” said Lyon. “I can only get it in Charlotte.”
About Jenn Lyon
Her family lived in Greensboro, Rutherfordton, High Point and Matthews. After high school, Lyon went to Catawba College in Salisbury, Central Piedmont Community College and North Carolina School of Arts, where she received her BFA.
“Fish in the Dark”: fishinthedark.com