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Interview with Newsies Star Ben Fankhauser

Ben Fankhauser on Newsies, Broadway, and Occupy Wall Street

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Up-and-coming Broadway actor Ben Fankhauser is making his Broadway debut in Disney’s Newsies, a musical based on the 1992 hit movie about the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. After a successful run at Paper Mill Playhouse, the highly anticipated show is coming to Broadway for a strictly limited engagement (March 28 through August 19, 2012).

Fankhauser is playing the role of newsboy Davey, which he originated during the Paper Mill run. He is a recent graduate of Ithaca College, where he received his BFA. Fankhauser’s other theater credits include Ernst in the first national tour of the Tony-winning musical Spring Awakening.

About.com’s Nick Orlando chatted with Fankhauser about his Broadway debut.

Nick Orlando: How would you describe your journey with this production?

Ben Fankhauser: I actually came a bit late in the process. I was the last one cast. They wanted to get the production on its feet. They were looking for a Davey for some time. The whole process happened so fast. It’s been an amazing journey.

NO: What has the transfer been like from Paper Mill to Broadway?

BF: Very exciting! It’s an artist's dream to get a second chance. We beefed up the show and lifted it to a higher level.

NO: What were Broadway rehearsals like?

BF: They were fast and furious. We had three weeks in the studio and one week of tech. Most of us have done the show before, so we knew the story and the groove. The new cast members fit right in.

NO: The musical is very physical. What type of training did you need to do?

BF: When I first had my audition, I took two dance classes per day for a week and a half. We have four boys in the cast from So You Think You Can Dance. I have been building up my stamina. I was a musical theater major in college and have been dancing for five years.

NO: Can you tell us about your character, Davey?

BF: Davey is a fish out of water, at first. He takes the job to help support his family, and then comes out of his shell. He is timid in the beginning and then he becomes the brains of the operation.

NO: You also recently recorded the cast album. How was that?

BF: Really exciting. This was the first time we heard the new orchestrations. Alan Menken and Jack Feldman were there.

NO: What inspired you about the movie?

BF: Being a young boy, interested in theater, seeing these boys who were my age, singing and dancing, was so inspiring. A band of brothers coming together fighting for what they believe in through song and dance.

NO: Would you draw any parallels between what the Newsies did and current movements like Occupy Wall Street?

BF: Absolutely. It is a young generation finding its voice. The young generation is realizing that it’s our world and we need to live it the way we want.

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