10-Year Manchester Singer Known For The Anthem Now Lands Dream Roll

MANCHESTER, CT — At 10, Manchester’s Rylie Pennington has already performed the National Anthem in front of thousands at several sports venues and at the annual fireworks show in town. She will be on her way to New York City for extensive training later this summer.

And starting Thursday, she’ll be on a run playing her dream role.

That would be the lead role in the play “Matilda,” at the Norwich-based Chestnut Street Playhouse. The show is slated for July 11 to 28.

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“Rylie has been singing since she was 3. Her father (Dan) is very musical and has been in bands and plays multiple instruments,” her mom, Kathryn, told Patch. “Chestnut Street Playhouse is an amazing local theatre.”

Rylie takes lessons in voice, acting and guitar at Fox Hill School of Music in Vernon. She began an interest in musical theater during the Coronavirus pandemic, Kathryn said.

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“And it made her want to sing more publicly,” Kathryn said.

That led to auditions to sing the Anthem. Since then, Riley has performed the “Star Spangled Banner” at games for the Hartford Wolf Pack (along with God Bless America on a separate occasion), the Hartford Yard Goats, the Connecticut Sun and at Manchester’s annual Dutch Fogarty Independence Day Celebration.

“I used to be nervous for her. There were 8,500 people at the Wolf Pack and the fireworks show was so crowded,” Kathryn said. “But I’m used to it now.”

Riley knew the reputation of the Anthem being one of the hardest songs to sing going into it all.

“At first, I was a little aware of how hard it is to sing, but, over time,” I became comfortable,” she said. “I sing it again and again and again and even at home to practice.”

Matilda may have been more nerve-wracking.

Matilda, is billed on IMDb as an extraordinary girl with a sharp mind and a vivid imagination who takes a daring stand to change her story — with miraculous results. Rylie had opportunities to play the role but was not chosen. She did play Lavender, Matilda’s best friend, last summer.

“So … we saw an audition posted in Norwich and we went back-and-forth because, at 10 Rylie is fairly tall,” Kathryn said. “She asked for one last chance.”

Rylie received a call back same day. She then was chosen for the role.

“I was very excited,” she said. “I was a little nervous. I really tried my best on this one for what I thought was my last shot at it. In my head, I knew I gave it best shot but if didn’t get it, I was fine.

“The call-back audition for Matilda was very stressful. There was singing, acting and dancing and some were dancing told to leave. Then more and others were told to leave.”

“Then, for Matilda, it was just me and another actor.”

Did she scream when the call came in to offer the role?

“Yes … I did,” Rylie said. “I’m was also nervous because it’s my first time with this company and I feel like when it’s your first time with company, you don’t get a lead role because they don’t really know you.”

Click here for ticket information and show times.

On closing night — July 28, Rylie leaves for New York. She was recently accepted to work with the Broadway Artists Alliance. She will be in the city for seven days.

“I’ve done a few singing camps, but nothing this big before,” Rylie said. “I’ll be around many many experienced people, and some of the teachers have been on broadway. I will get a feeling of what it’s like in New York.”

Locally, Rylie and dad perform in an acoustic duo.

Though Kathryn gives Dan the credit for “being the musician in the family,” Dan gives her a lot of credit.

“If Rylie is struggling with a dance move or a new song … Kathryn scours the Earth to find the right teacher to help her find the right teacher,” he said. “Kathryn has studied every Broadway show looking for the perfect songs for her auditions. The love of a mother is truly a transformative and magical thing.”

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