First Person with NEWSIES' Ben Fankhauser: My Mighty Fine Life as Davey
Audiences have a final chance to "Seize the Day!" - tickets are now available for Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical!, playing in U.S. movie theaters for three days only on Thursday, February 16 at 7:00 p.m., Saturday February 18 at 12:55 p.m. and Wednesday, February 22 at 7:00 p.m. (all local times). Captured live at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre earlier this year, the event reunites original cast members Jeremy Jordan, Kara Lindsay, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and Ben Fankhauser.
Below, Fankhauser joins BroadwayWorld as a guest author to reminisce about some of the highlights of his Newsies journey...
As Newsies Live rolls out across the world this month, I can't help but reflect on my journey with this incredible show. After it closed on Broadway, it had massive success on tour, and now as we're anticipating the release of the film, it honestly feels like it still has an unstoppable momentum. The path of this show's success parallels that of the success of the newsboys themselves. They started with nothing, fought for what they believed in, and didn't stop until things changed. Who'd've thought a small out-of-town tryout of a 1992 Disney film would keep shattering expectations and make its way to the big screen and into a medium that will immortalize the show forever?
We were under very strict guidelines that this journey would begin and end at Paper Mill Playhouse. Going to Broadway was not the point of this production, and at the time, was not a possible outcome. I'd heard a rumor that if the show was massively successful, they would consider sending it on tour and then immediately license out the rights. There really was no expectation for a future life. I think this was the perfect atmosphere in which to develop the show. We all wanted to make Newsies incredible to pay tribute to the film that had inspired us all.
To me, the 1992 Newsies movie feels like the inception of my passion for musical theatre. Newsies, based on the true story of the newsboys strike, was presented as a live action musical with an incredible score. The dancing seemed so strong and cool, and it was all in service of fighting for a fair shake and a seat at the table. I wanted to be in with the gang. It taught me about strength in numbers and about loyalty, and to never give up on being a dreamer. It certainly helped me find my voice, and I think we all wanted to jump at the opportunity to give that same feeling of passion to the next generation.
I'm pretty sure Davey was actually the last role cast. I wasn't initially able to get an audition for Newsies. I came in to audition for Justin Huff [casting director] for the tour of The Addams Family, and I got a call from him that The Addams Family wasn't a good fit, but he asked if I would come in and read for Davey. I think after my initial audition I had a brief dance call that evening. The next morning I went in and read with Jeremy Jordan and the entire creative team and I got a call about an hour after that. I don't even really have the vocabulary to describe how exciting those rehearsals were. Every day was more exciting than the one before, and I think we were just pinching ourselves at all times to be honest.
One of my fondest memories of Newsies is interacting with the fans. I loved meeting people from all over the world and hearing about their love of Newsies and all things Broadway. It wasn't long ago that I too was an aspiring performer- a fan, who waited at the stage door for a chance to meet my idols, get their autographs, and ask their advice on how to become an actor. I still consider myself a huge fan and student of musical theatre, and it is so moving to be on the other side of the table, getting to meet people from near and far who are waiting to ask me for the same things.
This story makes people feel empowered and inspired, and the fansies always gave that energy right back to us. It was like a special bond we formed with each audience. I'm so excited for the movie because that energy is going to reach so many people. Newsies is all about coming together for the greater good and sticking up for one another when something unfair is going on. To me, that's what theatre is all about. It's about the way that we are all connected to each other, and Newsies tells this story in such a powerful way.
I'm so grateful to Bob Tzudiker and Noni White for writing this movie, and to our brilliant creative team who dreamed it up perfectly for the stage. I'm so proud of the work we did. My hope is that this show will continue to inspire young artists and young dreamers alike. That the generations to come will still be be able to stand up for what they believe in, and fight for what is right.
Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical! will play in U.S. movie theaters for three days only on Thursday, February 16 at 7:00 p.m., Saturday February 18 at 12:55 p.m. and Wednesday, February 22 at 7:00 p.m. (all local times). Tickets can be purchased online by visiting www.FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices.