From Bucks to Broadway
By Kimberly Kratz, Class of 2011
As a young boy, Dan Horn dreamed of becoming a doctor, then an artist, then a pop singer. “I had so many different interests,” he said.
New to the Neshaminy School district, Horn found a niche at Maple Point Middle School where theater participation in the school musical required no audition. “It was the social thing to do at the time, so I decided I would join.”
There, he discovered his natural ability. “I really started to fall in love with dance, and I really wanted to be a pop singer,” he said.
The choreographer suggested he enroll in dance classes where he continued to train, and he went on to perform in every school show. By the time Horn had moved on to high school, he had begun performing full-time with the Brandywine Ballet Company.
At 16, Horn was commuting from his home in Langhorne to the ballet company in West Chester taking classes 6 or 7 days every week. The grueling schedule meant he’d arrive home at 12:30 or 1:00 a.m., and still need to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get to school on time. Half way through his sophomore year, he left Neshaminy High School for cyber-home school.
As a high school junior, Horn began a dual enrollment program at Bucks County Community College, taking 21 credits of on-campus courses at Newtown. “That really helped later because I had my prerequisites already taken care of.”
Horn felt like he fit in at Bucks. He said, “Every professor that I had was very helpful. I think there was a little bit more of a personal relationship amongst the professors [than after I transferred.]”
Math professor Thomas O’Keefe was a strong influence. “Math was never my strong suit. He made it a point to really help me out when I was having difficulties; he was so kind. He still asks how I’m doing.”
Environmental Studies, a 4-credit course, remains one of Horn’s most memorable classes at Bucks. “It was unlike any other course I had taken. We went out and did somefield tests and doing that for me, as a 17-year old in a college level class, was really cool and pushed me to try harder,” he said.
“We had to write a 25-page paper for our final, which to that point I had probably written a six or seven-page paper. That really pushed me to work harder—pushed me to learn faster. I just think it was a mixture of the fact that the professors were so great, and that I was so young and willing to learn. I definitely walked away with a lot of knowledge and I felt extremely prepared for when I went elsewhere.”
From Bucks, Horn enrolled for a semester at Rider University. “I decided theater was the route I would take and I enrolled in its new musical theater program with the intention to transfer elsewhere,” he said.
An advisor suggested he apply to the sought after musical theater program at the University of Oklahoma. Excited, Horn flew to Oklahoma and nailed his on-campus audition; accepted on the spot as one of only 14 students chosen annually. He spent three summers performing in 15 different shows in Wichita, Kansas regional theater while he sang, danced and acted his way to senior year.
Then, as was customary, Horn and his classmates took a trip to New York City. There they received individual opportunities to meet and audition for agents, agencies and casting directors. He met with two before returning to school.
After graduation Horn moved back home to Langhorne with his family.
“My mom and I were on vacation in Cape May. I hadn’t even signed with the agency, but I got an email from the agent saying ‘I can get you an audition at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Can you be there?’ And of course, this is my first Broadway audition and I immediately freaked out and my mom said, ‘Yeah, you have to go!’”
The only problem was that the car they had taken to the shore was a stick shift, and he said, “I was just learning to drive a stick shift that week! I ended up leaving my mom there, taking her car to the train station, jumping on NJ Transit and arrived in New York at 12:30 in the morning.” There, the following morning he auditioned for the musical Matilda.
His agents were thrilled. Horn had set a precedent that no one else they represented had ever managed. “I got to the end of the audition process and there were only two of us left.”
While he did not end up booking that particular audition, his agents told him not to worry. The next audition, for Cinderella, came two weeks later. “I was out for lunch with a classmate and all of a sudden I’m getting a call from my agent. I just stared at the phone thinking, ‘there’s no way’.”
The agent informed Horn that, assuming he could fit into the costumes, he likely be hired. “I wondered whether I should eat a lot or not. The next day I went in for a fitting with the costume designers and wardrobe.”
Afterwards, Horn walked to nearby Central Park. “I was sitting by the fountain on 59th Street at Columbus Circle,” he said, when the call came to congratulate him on booking his Broadway debut. Though he hadn’t yet had time to make friends in the city, by week’s end he’d begun rehearsals.
Horn has since been hired twice as a swing (a performer who covers the roles of several different characters as needed.) “People perceive me as a dancer first. I often get looks when they see I can actually sing,” he said.
Horn has performed twice on the Tony Awards and in a list of Broadway shows, including George Takei’s Allegiance. The filmed final performance has shown in special engagements around the country including the AMC Neshaminy theater in Horn’s hometown.
Though his first love remains the stage, Horn said he also loves interior design. “I love taking things that were once essentially trash and making them into things that are beautiful and usable.”
One day, perhaps, Horn will play the leading song and dance character, Don Lockwood, in one of his favorite shows: Singing in the Rain. In the meantime, you can see this Bucks County alumnus performing in Miss Saigon on Broadway.