Alright, “Fansies” here is your Holiday present! I feel very lucky to share this interview with the beloved Broadway news boy, Andrew Keenan-Bolger. If pretending like you have a limp and walking around on crutches eight times a week doesn’t earn you enough respect, then just watch anything he has his name attached to (which is a lot). From commanding the Nederlander Theater, to blogging, to film making, to being the creator of everyone’s favorite Saturday tradition, the Saturday Intermission Pic or better known on Twitter as #SIP, Andrew really can do it all! So, seize the day and read away because Mr. Keenan-Bolger is a Jack of All Trades, and MASTER OF ALL. 

MC:When did you catch the theater bug?

AK-B:I grew up around theatre. My big sister, Celia was performing for as long as I can remember. I’m told that she was in a production of Show Boat when I was one-year-old. My mom was hanging in the lobby and decided to bring me in to watch Celia’s scene. I ended up being so enraptured that I sat on her lap and quietly watched the entire show.

To all the Broadway buffs out there it is no surprise that your siblings are performing arts oriented as well. How did they influence you growing up?

My sisters had a huge influence on me. I think it had less to do with me idolizing them as performers and more to do with idolizing them as people. Being the baby of the family, I think I just wanted to be like them. Theatre was what they thought was cool so it’s what I thought was cool. I’m sure if they were really into astronomy, I’d probably be working for NASA today.

Andrew and his sisters Maggie (L) and Celia (R)

You hold a B.F.A in Musical Theater from the University of Michigan. Could you talk about your experience there and how it helped you become the triple threat you need to be for Broadway?I cannot recommend U of M enough. Aside from their top-notch training in Musical Theatre, it was the overall college experience that shaped the person I am in this business. They encourage students to seek education outside of the theatre department and create your own opportunities. I ended up taking a ton of writing classes with the English majors. It gave me the confidence to be a creator in addition to being an interpreter.

Currently you are playing Crutchie in the Tony Award winning Newsies on Broadway! How amazing is it to be in such a well received show?

It’s honestly really, really cool. I’ve never been a part of show that’s had such a ravenous, supportive fanbase. Our “fansies” make it worth it every day. To be so encouraged both on and off stage is an awesome feeling and I think it is a large part of why our boys are so committed to giving 100% every show.

Probably the most defining thing about Crutchie is that he has a limp. How do you get through eight shows a week practically walking on one leg?

I have a good pre-show regimen that our Physical Therapist team came up with for me. It definitely takes a little wear and tear walking incorrectly for so many hours a week. Luckily, I haven’t had any serious injuries but whenever I start slacking on my PT, I immediately notice more fatigue.

How did you use the Newsies movie in preparation for the show and how did you make the part of Crutchie your own? 

Once I got cast in the first reading I decided to not go back to the movie. I definitely have memories of it as a kid but I wanted to create Crutchie based on my personal experiences in life. I knew the obvious choice was to play the crippled kid as sweet, sympathetic and waif-like so I decided to steer as far away from that as possible. I think my Crutchie is a lot more sarcastic and a lot tougher which would probably be more realistic of a kid who was living and working in the streets.

By being a part of the Newsies cast you have gotten to do some pretty great things (for example performing in Times Square and at the 2012 Tony Awards). What has been your favorite experience with being a part of the show?

I definitely have to say the Tony Awards was a life changing experience. There’s not an actor in the world that didn’t grow up dreaming about being on that stage. The fact that I got to do it the same year that my sister was nominated was just the icing on the cake.

Andrew (center) as Crutchie in Newsies

What’s your pre-show routine? 

The show is very vocally demanding, not just the singing but we do a good deal of shouting and screaming. Ben Fankhauser, my dressing room mate and I do a set of vocalises before the show so we don’t wreck our voices and then I go backstage and stretch.

What advice do you have for aspiring Broadway performers?

I think the best advice I could give is to find things outside of the business that bring you joy. This business can be rewarding, and fulfilling and a ton of fun, but it can also be heart-breaking and sometimes vicious. Having other activities in your life, be it writing or yoga or painting, keeps you level headed when your career hits a snag. ♦

Photo Credit: Stagedoor Dish, T. Charles Erickson