Ron Raines is currently playing literary fat cat Joseph Pulitzer in Disney’s hit Broadway musical Newsies, fresh off his Tony-nominated performance as Benjamin Stone in last season’s acclaimed revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. Raines is no stranger to playing tough guys, having previously picked up three Emmy nominations as tycoon Alan Spaulding on the now-cancelled daytime soap Guiding Light. We caught up with Raines to chat about working with the young cast of Newsies and happy memories of Follies.
How are you enjoying your run in Newsies?
Oh, it’s going very well now. I was shot out of the cannon a couple weeks ago, and that’s always scary and exciting. It takes a little time to find your footing, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. They offered it to me, and when I saw the role, I said, “That’s what I want to do: three really good scenes and not have to carry the show.
Is it fun to play a villain in a big Disney musical?
I love villains! I played a villain on Guiding Light for 15 years. The thing about them is they don’t think they’re villains. They just do whatever they have to do to survive, and if people would listen to them and not get in their way, they wouldn’t have to do things to eliminate [their enemies]. I don’t know if Joseph Pulitzer was a true villain, but it does make good drama if I’m more of a villain, because you really root for the boys even more to win over the big, mean Goliath.
In Follies, you worked with some of Broadway's most acclaimed performers, and now you’re working with a cast filled with young actors making their Broadway debuts. What is that like?
That can be a shock—but not in this situation, which I am very happy to discover. These kids give 100 percent and do incredibly well every night. And Corey Cott [as hero Jack Kelly] is just fabulous! He’s just such a wonderful addition to the Broadway community. He is a throwback: really disciplined, shows up, committed every moment. I’m very impressed with all of them.
What’s the crowd been like at Newsies? Different than Follies, I’d imagine.
It’s like a rock concert sometimes, my God! It’s like these screaming fans—it’s kind of wild.
Does it bother you to get booed during the curtain call?
I want boos! I mean, boos in the spirit of fun [laughs]. I welcome boos because that means I’ve done my job.
Let’s talk about Follies for a minute. What was the best part of that experience for you?
My fondest memory is just the experience of doing Follies. What was wonderful about doing the show so many times was it just kept getting better; that’s what was most rewarding. And then, of course, getting to work with those great performers and with Mr. Sondheim was a dream come true.
Did your Best Actor Tony nomination come as a surprise?
I was shocked, very deeply touched and delighted. It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers. Ben’s a very difficult role. It took me a long time to really feel like I had my Ben fleshed out. He’s not a likable character; of the four he’s really the guy responsible for all the carnage of the other people: Sally’s delusion, which rippled to Buddy, and then Phyllis trying to always be the perfect hostess [and] the perfect wife. I tried to find some windows where the audience could at least see and understand his situation.
What is your plan after your stay in Newsies?
I’ve got some concerts to do, and some master classes. I’m not really in a hurry to do a lot of stuff, to be honest with you. There’s always things that come along. I want to spend more time closer to home, if possible, but I know that that’s just a wish.
Don’t miss Ron Raines in Newsies through December 16 at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre.