By Michael Gioia
15 Mar 2012
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
JJ: Well, the only disadvantage is that we don't have Bill Pullman [who played Bryan Denton], but I don't think we were going to get him in the first place! [Laughs.] Instantly, the story is more interesting. You need a female character in a show. There's a great new aspect of women's suffrage and women's rights and women coming up in the world that's added by this one character. It adds a whole new level to the progressive nature of the piece, and it also adds a pretty nifty love story and some cool twists along the way.
Alan Menken mentioned that Jack's duet with Katherine in the second act has changed for Broadway.
JJ: Yeah, it's different. In the Paper Mill version, it was much more of a "let's-figure-out-what's-really-going-on-here" kind of a song. It was like a scene that was set to music. Here, we really made it into a love song, which is something that we needed in that moment. It's a Disney show, and it's a love story. I think it's only appropriate to have a kick-ass love song, and that's what we've put on stage.
Tell me about the dancing in the show. Were you always a dancer?
JJ: [Laughs.] No. I'm not a dancer, Michael! I think people think I dance more than I do just because there's so many guys dancing, and you can't always quite tell who is who. I do get to dance. I dance more than I've ever danced before on Broadway, so I'm working pretty hard, but everybody else makes me look good — I can't complain! It's fun and exciting to get to do a little bit here and there without being pressured to have to do double tours and split-leaps. [Laughs.]
|photo by Nathan Johnson|
What is it like working with director Jeff Calhoun? He's directed you in both productions of Bonnie & Clyde and both productions of Newsies.
JJ: Jeff is the only guy I work with nowadays. I don't know if you heard! [Laughs.] It's literally my fourth production in a row that I've worked with Jeff on. It's a dream. Jeff is a wonderful director. He's got a great eye. He casts wonderfully. He speaks eloquently, and gets out of your way and knows exactly when to step in. He's unselfish. He's a true collaborator.
JJ: Pressure? No, I'm excited! It's kind of strange that I'm originating two roles in one season. The reason that doesn't happen often is because, generally, when you originate a role, hopefully [the production] stays open for a while so you can't originate another role in the same season. [Laughs.] Sadly, one show had to close in order for that to happen, but it's exciting. I never really felt like I've made my mark on the New York stage, and now, suddenly, I feel like I'm bursting onto it. I feel like my career is on an upswing. It's thrilling!
Besides Newsies, do you have any upcoming projects?
JJ: Just Newsies. I'm hoping that we'll be sticking around at the Nederlander for a while.
(Michael Gioia's work frequently appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Write to him at email@example.com.)
Watch highlights from the Paper Mill production of Newsies: