Wilton man experiences ‘Hungarian Nights’ in America
Riley Sexton of Wilton is immersing himself in the arts this summer, here and overseas.
As part of the cultural exchange program of the Crystal Theatre of Norwalk, Riley will be sharing the stage with performers and dancers from Hungary in a production of “Hungarian Nights, the Musical” and a revue called “Broadway Rocks!”
After the performances stateside, he will travel to Hungary to perform the same shows for audiences over there.
A graduate of Wilton High School, Sexton recently completed his freshman year at the University of New Haven, where is majoring in criminal justice with a concentration in investigative services.
As a hobby, theater is Sexton’s passion. He performed in shows at Wilton High School all four years he was there. This is his second year as part of cultural exchange program with the Crystal Theatre children’s theater group.
Under the program, students from Hungary visit Connecticut for three weeks in the summer, performing shows with American students. While here, they stay with American host families. Sexton’s family is hosting two Hungarian dancers.
The American students then visit Hungary for two weeks, staying with host families and performing the same shows over there. The group will head to Budapest on Aug. 8 for a three-week tour of “Hungarian Nights,” including performances at the Duna Palota Theater and the Erzsébet Liget Theater in Budapest, the Balatonföldvar Outdoor Ampitheater at Lake Balaton and the Híros Hét Festival in Kecskemet.
The program has allowed Sexton to get to know and perform with other young people from another country. “I’ve been doing theater my whole life and have never seen a cast that was so cohesive and had so much chemistry with each other, I enjoy the camaraderie. It’s a very tight group and we have a lot of fun. A lot of these people were the same ones I performed with previously,” he said.
Sexton looks forward to revisiting Budapest and Lake Balaton, where he stayed before. “This is a great way to see other cultures firsthand. Hungary has a vibrant history. There are cobblestone streets everywhere and old style that was not destroyed in World War II,” he said.
On the flip side, Sexton also enjoys hosting the Hungarian students and showing them Wilton and American life. “I took them to Weir Farm to walk around. They love the outdoors and wildlife because they live in Budapest, a city,” he said.
He noted that interestingly, the Hungarian students have developed a great love for the music of Jim Morrison and The Doors. “Every time we get in my car they ask me to play the Doors,” he said.
Sexton will get to test his acting chops by taking on two roles in “Hungarian Nights, the Musical.”
Written by Cheryl Kemény and Mariner Pezza of Crystal Theatre, the show is billed as a “romantic Gothic musical” and features a love story set against the backdrop of gypsies and vampires and the eternal between light and darkness.
Sexton plays Buffalo Bill Cody, a small role, as well as the chief villain in the show, Zoltan Temeszary. “Bad guys are always a lot of fun to play. Zoltan is boastful and snide and has an arrogant air about him,” he said.
Sexton is also participating in “Broadway Rocks,” where the cast will perform numbers from Broadway shows “Mamma Mia!” and “Frankenstein,” and movies “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “The Greatest Showman.”
“Hungarian Nights, the Musical” with special guests, the Liget Dance Ensemble, will be performed on Wednesday, July 24, and Saturday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m., at the Crystal Theatre Ben Franklin Center, 66 Bayview Avenue, South Norwalk.
It will also be performed on Thursday, July 25, at 7:30 p.m., at the A.R.T Theater, 502 W. 53rd Street, in New York City. It will also be performed there on Friday, July 26, at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available online at crystaltheatre.org or at the door.
“Broadway Rocks” also features the Liget Dance Ensemble and will be performed on Friday, July 19, at 7 p.m., at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, and admission is free.