THE LEADING MEN: Newsies Sidekicks Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Ben Fankhauser

By Michael Gioia
29 Mar 2012

Keenan-Bolger at Newsies media day
Photo by Monica Simoes

[SPOILER!] At Paper Mill, after Crutchie is captured and taken to the Refuge, you took on another role in the newsboys ensemble. Are you still playing both tracks for Broadway?
AKB: I'm actually not, in this version. I'm offstage now for a good portion, but that has been great for me. I'm also a filmmaker, so I'm simultaneously editing my webseries, "Submissions Only," as well as filming a lot of backstage exclusive content for Disney — Newsies' online videos. It's the perfect role. I get a lot of glory in the first act, and, in the second act, I get a little bit of downtime to do some creative work offstage.

Can you tell me about your role as a filmmaker?
AKB: I started out making little video-blogs with my friends at North Shore Music Theatre [during the run of High School Musical]. They asked me to do a backstage blog, and I assumed a few hundred people might watch it, and it gained a big random fan-base. As I learned more about filmmaking, it really became something that turned into more than a hobby. I think it's really important, as an actor in this business, to have another creative outlet. So much of what we do depends on decisions of other people. To be able to create something that is truly your own — that you've brought into fruition — and express your own, unique voice is the most rewarding thing at the end of the day. I think it's really helped me in all areas of performing. I now have a viewpoint as a director and as a writer. It makes you more valuable as a performer because directors and choreographers know that you're going to bring something to the table and come up with ideas, so it's not only them doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

As a performer, it helps you understand yourself when you understand the other side of the table.
AKB: Absolutely. I also get to see these Broadway legends, whom I've always looked up to, work. I've gotten to work with people like Kristin Chenoweth and Chita Rivera... Seeing their process is so interesting. Seeing that these people aren't immortal — that they go through the same motions as we do and ask for feedback and break down scenes... They have to work, too, and that's really exciting to see.

With both performing and filmmaking, where do you see your career going?
AKB: Ideally, I would love to create either a television show or a movie and perform it — sort of like Tina Fey or Lena Dunham, who directed, wrote and stars in this new TV series for HBO, ["Girls"]. She's in her early 20s — about the same age as me.

Are there any projects in the works besides Newsies?
AKB: Right now, Newsies is my number one. It's the first time I get to originate a role on Broadway, so I hope to be here for a long time!

Well, you must be busy. Besides rehearsing, you're also recording the cast album.
AKB: As a kid, I was obsessed with Broadway cast recordings, and I would totally mimic and memorize every little choice that these actors made. The fact that there might be some kid in a regional production in ten years doing the random, little things that I chose to do on that recording is a bit mind-blowing.