“The first time I felt that excitement like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to get home’, I knew I was in the right place.”
— Dylis Croman
In between tour dates and home for awhile makes Dallas-raised Dylis (pronounced Dī-lēs´) Croman appreciate the neighborhood she calls home. “I’m half country, half city, growing up in Texas for half of my life and living in New York City for the other half,” she says. “So, I really appreciate what Nashville has to offer. People look you in the eye and give you a smile while still bustling to their next thing. Small town charm and kindness with a city’s heart and soul. Feels like home to a Texas gal like me.”
While Texas to New York to Nashville may be a familiar route for many musicians who have settled in the Music City, Croman’s chosen art makes her an unusual convert to twang town’s charms. She’s a seasoned musical actress for whom dance is her primary language. After leaving the Lone Star State, she was mentored by renowned Broadway actress/dancer/choreographer and Bob Fosse collaborator, Ann Reinking, and Croman has made several signature Fosse roles her own. Alternating between Broadway runs and work with touring companies, Croman has appeared in Sweet Charity and Fosse, and added her dash of Texas flavor to the powerhouse starring role of Roxie Hart in hit musical Chicago for over two decades.
When Croman steps back from the footlights, she returns to the Inglewood home she shares with singer-songwriter Seth Walker. With both of their touring schedules often in tandem, an understanding of what they both want and need is essential.
“We really understand each other because of what we do,” Croman says. “He’s on the road, I’m on the road. When we can be together at home it’s such a blessing, and we look forward to those moments. Those are really special for us. But we understand what we do as artists and what we do for a living is more than just a job. It’s who we are.”
Her circuitous route to Nashville began at the age of 17, when Croman moved to New York after being invited to study with the Feld Ballet. She kept New York as her home base for 23 years before a penultimate move to New Orleans with Walker. Around two years ago, the couple relocated to Nashville to facilitate the recording of Walker’s tenth studio album, Are You Open?. Upon arrival both fell in love with Music City and, especially, the East Side.
“For some reason East Nashville just really speaks to me and my spirit because I think it’s just a little bit more down home,” Croman says. “It’s easy going, but it’s still a little crunchy. I like that. It kind of reminds me a little bit of the East Village.”
Croman’s appreciation for both the Big Apple and small town homey-ness has served her well on the road, where she keeps the Fosse dance style alive and high-kicking. Noting the differences between her stints on Broadway and on the road, she says, “It seems that when we tour with [Chicago], especially when we go to smaller towns venues, they’re just so hungry for good theater. And of course, there are Chicago fans all over the place. They all gather and they just go crazy. It’s almost like a rock concert.”
Although still making connections in Nashville, Croman has already performed in Chicago many times with another Nashville resident, former
Tennessee Titan turned Broadway star, Eddie George, who stepped into the roll of criminal defense lawyer Billy Flynn in 2016. Croman also says the idea of working in her adopted hometown has its appeals. “I’m still so passionate about performing and would love to do some local theatre, stretch myself as an actor — plays in particular, as well as continuing to pass down the Fosse style and legacy [through teaching]. I feel I’m doing a small part to inspire and lift spirits, whether it be in the theatre or in a
For now, though, Dylis Croman is putting her life as East Sider on hold to head back out on the road for another run as Roxie Hart. But it won’t be long before she can’t wait to get home again.