BWW Interview: Matt Farcher, Brian Sutherland, Kate Fahrner, Angela Grovey, Justin Schuman, Blake Stadnik of NEWSIES at The Fulton Theatre

BWW Interview: Matt Farcher, Brian Sutherland, Kate Fahrner, Angela Grovey, Justin Schuman, Blake Stadnik of NEWSIES at The Fulton Theatre

Pennsylvania's theatre gem, The Fulton, is currently presenting the Pennsylvania Premiere of the Tony® Award-winning musical, Disney's NEWSIES, June 6 through July 23, 2017. The show is based on the history of the Newsboys strike of 1899. Fulton Theatre brings the story to life for a smashing and brilliant production of the show. It is masterfully directed and choreographed by Marc Robin (Fulton's Executive Artistic Producer), with exquisite orchestration by Ray Fellman (Musical Director), beautifully crafted scenery led by Chuck Kading (Scenic Designer), effervescent lighting designed by Dan Efros (Lighting Designer), creatively contrasted costuming by Anthony Lascoskie, Jr. (Costume and Wig Designer), perfectly pinpointed sound by Jacob Mishler (Sound Designer), and artistically crafted props by Katelin Walsko (Props Designer). The show is a feast for the eyes and soul.

I had the opportunity to speak with a few cast members: Matt Farcher (Jack Kelly), Kate Fahrner (Kathrine Plumber), Angela Grovey (Medda Larkin), Justin Schuman (Davey), Blake Stadnik (Crutchie), and Brian Sutherland (Joseph Pulitzer).

Christy Brooks: The choreography in the show is spectacular and really shows the precision necessary to execute such elaborate moves. Was it as joyful to perform as it appeared?

Justin Schuman: Davey, to my knowledge, doesn't typically dance. I used to be a serious dancer and I have started to transition toward more of the singer-actor world, which I am very pleased about. Marc knew that so I get to dance in SEIZE THE DAY, which I enjoy. It's my cardio workout for the evening, too.

Katherine Plumber: Marc wasn't going to have KING OF NEW YORK be a big tap number for me. Originally I wasn't going to wear tap shoes at all. But then when they started rehearsing the number, Marc remembered that I danced and wanted me in it. I really enjoy doing it.

Christy Brooks: Any challenges while performing your role that you can speak to, that you had to overcome or are still working through?

Justin Schuman: I find Davey's position in the piece, as a tool in the storytelling, to be somewhat difficult because a lot of his part is to move the story along and to help develop the ideas. I've had a hard time with making the transition from Davey not supporting the strike and then ending up with him supporting the strike. Not only that, Davey is the one leading the strike. So I've had a lot of conversations with Marc and Kate about how we could best tell the story but also feel the most authentic to me and not have to muscle through it every night. It's still something I continue to explore.

Brian Sutherland: It's a surprisingly literate book for a big dance show. Often musicals are more about getting to the next dance number.

Angela Grovey: For me, breaking that fourth wall (when an actor speaks to the audience directly), is something I'm always playing with because I don't want to scare people. I think the beautiful citizens of Lancaster are very kind but sometimes they are terrified. So I'm still learning how to finesse that part and have it be okay for everyone.

Christy Brooks: So, do you get a feel for which audience member might be one to work with while breaking the fourth wall?

Angela Grovey: I do have the opportunity to take a peek at the audience when I'm playing the role of the nun. Because the lighting is at its darkest during Medda's song, THAT'S RICH, I can't see the audience, so having the chance to see someone in the audience to play to, ahead of time, and that helps.

Christy Brooks: Do you have any rituals you do prior to the performance that you would like to share?

Matt Farcher: During the preshow music, I take Blake's hand and we hug and we say, "Tell a good story." And usually (if I'm not running late) I go around and make contact with each cast member.

Brian Sutherland: You know that's a really classy thing that you do. I don't think I've worked in a show where a young person has done that. You are leading us and it's a chance to let us all know that you don't take it for granted.

Justin Schuman: Before every show I make contact with Timmy (Les). Right before we enter for the first time, I always give him a thumbs-up and he always gives me a little thumbs-up back. I value that moment.

Kate Fahrner: Every night, after the goons come on stage and Timmy and me exit while he's screaming, I barge in to Angela's dressing room and scare her.

Angela Grovey: You would think that I would know it was coming but I'm concentrating. I do projects and crafts backstage.

Christy Brooks: What types of crafts do you do?

Angela Grovey: I like cookbooks. I rip recipes out of magazines I had shipped from my home. I then glue them to pages, making a cookbook.

Justin Schuman: Angela Grovey: She can cook, too! And I love the recipe she has for potato salad.

Angela Grovey: We've had great conversations about food. We are in a unique situation so food, along with the arts, brings us together.

Blake Stadnik: I have a challenge that doesn't speak to this show but there is something I have to figure out with every show. I am legally blind so in every show I have to figure out how I am going to navigate on stage. In this show, Matt and I, at one point, have to get all the way around the stage to exit and it is very dark back there so Matt just grabs my hand, I just trust him, and he pulls me along until we are clear. He's my "seeing eye Matt." While on stage, I can't see the number lines so I just trust everyone else to be in their correct positions. Mostly I recognize people on stage by what they are wearing and then I can get close enough to see their faces.

Christy Brooks: Justin, you play your role with so much compassion; it is consistent the entire show. Do you have a particular subtext that you draw on?

Justin Schuman: I think it is our job to bring the 100% full-force ourselves to do our job: the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, for me personally, I lost my sister a year and a half ago in a tragic car accident. So this role is a million percent for her; every night, no question. It's hard but it's great and it's fun. It's never hard as in I never want to do it. It's hard in a rewarding and cathartic way. So that's what you get: you get a person who's been at the very, very bottom and who knows it will never get worse than that. And, if you read compassion in my role, that's where it is coming from.

Christy Brooks: Blake, when did you begin working with your crutch at rehearsal?

Blake Stadnik: Probably within the first week and a half of rehearsal. My walk as Crutchie has evolved a little bit, from just a little limp to turning in the leg. Marc and I discussed what ailment Crutchie might have had and we thought perhaps one of the early polio cases. So I looked at how that would affect the body.

Christy Brooks: What do you believe Crutchie and Jack's relationship is built on?

Blake Stadnik: Jack is essentially Crutchie's brother. They've known one another for almost ten years and Jack has been taking care of Crutchie. He also taught him how to read, and everything I know. He's probably a father figure as well. Jack is one of the only good male influences in Crutchie's life.

Christy Brooks: Brian, if you could pick a song for Joseph to sing in the show, what would it be?

Brian Sutherland: I think the song he sings, THE BOTTOM LINE, is effective enough as a metaphor for numbers and he's intent on putting the screws to the Newsies, but it doesn't really give you insight into Joseph as a person. It always seemed more interesting to me to dig a little bit more to see what's at stake, what he's fighting for, and what matters to him in more of a direct way.

Christy Brooks: Kate, did you have any formal training as a dancer?

Kate Fahrner: I did; I started dancing when I was three. I grew up in a really small town and I wanted to be a ballerina. At 15, I stopped dancing because I found out our dance teacher had been lying to her students. She thought we were great and we were not. She finally admitted that she only knew how to teach until students were 8 or 9 years old so I thought, there goes my career. I didn't sing or act until much later. I considered being a Shamu trainer instead of a ballerina but I couldn't hold my breath under the water long enough. So, somehow I ended up in musical theatre.

Christy Brooks: Matt, is Jack like you in any way?

Matt Farcher: Jack is pretty close to who I am but he is way more confident than I am. I like to just hang out and not be the leader.

Christy Brooks: Angela, besides your cookbooks and cooking, you are also a member of the Broadway Inspirational Voices (BIV). What can you tell me about the organization?

Angela Grovey: BIV is a non-profit organization and I sing with them. It is a two-prong organization: the music side and the charitable side. All the money that we make is put back into service organizations in the community. We have outreach programs, too. At different elementary and middle schools, I run our outreach programs for The Covenant House in NYC. We do monthly programs for homeless youth. One program is called, BIV at the Cov, and the other is Songs in the Key of Me, which is featured at Jazz at Lincoln Center and A Night of Broadway Stars. I am actually going to spend three or four weeks here in Lancaster working with young ladies in a STEM program, to add some of the Arts to the program. Telling the story of NEWSIES has changed my core. I think the reason I love this story so much is that anyone can rally together to make change and so I feel that has affected me. Not only do I get to tell the NEWSIE story with other artists but I also get to walk that walk as Angela.

NEWSIES is running through July 23, at The Fulton Theatre. To purchase tickets call 717-397-7425 or visit www.theFulton.org . Photo credit: Kinectiv




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