In the corporate world, employees leaving a job are asked to sit through a sometimes grueling "exit interview" about their time at the company. Although that concept doesn't exist for Broadway performers, we think it's fun to check in with stars as they finish up a successful run. Below, Newsies’ lovable supporting player Andrew Keenan-Bolger (who plays his final performance as Crutchie on March 10) looks back on his time in amazing Tony night and the band of Newsie brothers.
How did you feel when you first got the job?
From the second I got cast in the reading, I was on cloud nine. At that point Broadway seemed so far off that I never let myself get too comfortable with the idea of actually playing the role on stage. I was more excited with the prospect that this movie my friends and I worshipped was possibly going to be a Broadway musical.
How do you feel now that you’re leaving the job?
Our director, Jeff Calhoun said something on our opening night that really stuck with me. He said that these were “the good old days" that we would look back on when we're older. I know it's only been a year, but I'm already looking back on my time with Newsies as such a defining chapter in my life and one that feels really sad to close.
What are three words you would use to describe your experience at the job?
Rich. Koi. Gorg.
What was the easiest thing about the job?
Getting to come to work and hang out with my friends. I know everyone claims that their cast is "really close," but I think the bond we share in Newsies is unique. In the show, these boys risk everything in the name of brotherhood and I feel that same way about the guys in my cast. I remember hanging out with the boys one night after the show and playing the Questions Game. I don't remember exactly what was asked, but I vividly recall Bres [Ryan Breslin] looking deep into my eyes and saying that if need be, he would "help me dispose of a body." Thankfully, I don't think it's ever going to come to that but it's that kind of crazy, unquestioning love I feel for these guys.
What was the hardest thing about the job?
Everyone knows how physically demanding Newsies is in terms of the dance, but even the guys in the toughest tracks remark that the singing in this show is often the hardest part. The newsboys are teenagers and Alan Menken wrote this music in the top of a guy's range. Also, because the energy of the show needs to be so heightened, we have to achieve a shout-y, and at times scream-y, quality in the music and the dialogue. Pacing myself vocally for an eight-show week definitely took a lot of work.
What was the highlight of your time at the job?
Tony night was probably the highlight of my time with Newsies, heck, of my life for that matter! There was a 45-minute window of time that still gives me chills to think about. It started with walking the red carpet with my sister, Celia [a nominee for Peter and the Starcatcher]. I then threw on my costume and watched from backstage as our choreographer, Chris Gattelli, won his first Tony Award. Our boys were all crying and jumping around hugging each other but were quickly rushed to the wings while they set up for our number. The category announced while we were waiting in the wings was my sister's, and I got to watch her on the monitor looking stupid beautiful. We then ran out on stage and got to perform, for the first time, Chris' Tony-winning choreography. It was such an incredible rush! If I could somehow revisit one moment in my life thus far, I think that would be it.
What skills do you think are required for future job applicants?
Well luckily, due to my utter lack of dance ability, any future applicant for Crutchie need not be blessed with the gift of movement. I can't say the same for the other boys. To be a Newsie, you really do need to be a triple threat, and the talent in this company, especially for such youngsters, is truly astonishing.
What advice would you give to future employees in your job position?
Find a hobby that is time consuming, because, while Crutchie is locked up in the refuge, Andrew gets an hour break in his dressing room. Knitting? Homework (more likely with this cast)? I've personally gotten to edit hundreds of hours of video during Act 2 and feel pretty lucky having a gig that affords that.
How do you think you’ve grown during your time at the job?
I feel like 2012 was the first year I actually felt like a grown-up. I think a large part of this had to do with achieving such a huge goal. Growing up, my biggest dream was to get to originate a role on Broadway, and so much of my work and training has built up to this job. While the feeling I get from doing Newsies is unparalleled, it's hard to prolong that kind of doe-eyed dream state for the rest of my life, especially when I'm still in my twenties. I feel like the biggest realization I've come to on this job is that I need to keep learning and creating. I'm starting to take writing and directing more seriously, and I don't know if I would have had the confidence to do that without being a part of such a milestone production like Newsies.
Why are you leaving the job?
I'm leaving to go play "Jesse Tuck" in the pre-Broadway run of a truly gorgeous new musical called Tuck Everlasting. I've also just begun filming the new season of my webseries, Submissions Only, which I'm producing with my co-creator Kate Wetherhead, as well as Broadway producer Kevin McCollum. Both projects inspire me so much, and I'm so thankful to have them to dull the inevitable ache I'm going to feel leaving Newsies.
What will you miss most about the job?
Hands down, my boys. My biggest takeaway from the show is the friendships I've made. I think such a large part of the impact of this piece is seeing these boys band together and fight for each other. That kind of onstage chemistry can't be manufactured. It was built through trusting each other during grueling rehearsals out-of-town, bonding at parties while we waited for news of a transfer, celebrating as we landed on Broadway where half of our cast got to make their debuts and supporting each other every night, eight shows a week, for a year and a half of our lives. Aw, man. Even writing this makes me so sad to leave this show. I love you boys. "Soak 'em for Crutchie!"