It was the end of senior year at the University of Michigan for Stephanie Styles when final auditions for the role of Katherine Plumber took place between her last days of college classes and her first exam of the semester.
"I flew up, I flew back," said Styles. "And, it was the next morning after my final, final, final callback… I'm sitting in a Panera, studying for a final that I have in an hour, and I got the call. I started sobbing because my lifetime dream has been to work for Disney. I started sobbing in a Panera. Everyone was staring at me, and I had to go take my final…
"We're both just huge Disney fans… Like crazy huge!" she admitted with a laugh, speaking for her co-star Dan DeLuca, the musical's new Jack Kelly. "We both are obsessed with Disney."
As for DeLuca, "I was in Bryant Park," he recalled. It was his mother's birthday the day he got the call that he'd be starring in Newsies.
He continued, "My agents called me [and] said that they had to have a conference call with me. Justin Huff, the casting director, said, 'Okay, I've got some notes for you from yesterday,' which was our final callback day. I was like, 'Notes? Not again!' I've been going in for this show for quite some time now. But, it was a beautiful day in Bryant Park, [and] they were like, 'Can you just sit down?' He [said], 'I hope you're ready to do this. You're going to be Jack Kelly in Disney's Newsies in the first national tour.'"
Both DeLuca and Styles describe the casting as a "dream come true," since they've both admired Disney musicals from an early age and will soon embark on the tour of the Tony Award-nominated Best Musical.
"Growing up," said Styles, "we were in the generation of the Disney renaissance, and those movies… It was the first time where I really saw a story propelled by music and singing, and that really stayed with me my whole life. I think that's why I still like Disney and why I love musical theatre so much. They really worked hand in hand. Our generation grew up on that."
"You have this amazing protagonist who really just radiates hope in Jack Kelly," said Styles — again talking for her co-star ("I'm speaking about your character!" she said to DeLuca). "That's something I think all people can relate to in every Disney movie, and you really have that, except [in Newsies] there's this raw story that's actually true. There was the 1899 newsboy strike, and it's a real story, but it has that Disney magic."
"That's the craziest part," interjected DeLuca. "You have to remember that this is a true story. This stuff actually happened, and you see us in our early 20s or late teens, but these kids were 13 years old, 14 years old. And, it's incredible that we get to tell this story that actually a lot of people don't know, which is very relevant in American history… It's so raw and gritty, yet truly Disney magic."
On tour, aside from visiting their hometowns (Houston, TX, for Styles; Pittsburgh, PA, for DeLuca), the two also can't wait to visit Orlando and Los Angeles.
"I think we're excited about going to — so much about Disney — Orlando and L.A. to go to the Disney theme parks," said Styles. Added DeLuca, "And, I've never been to Disneyland, so…"
"Oh, you haven't?"
"We're in L.A. for a month, so I'm going to be sneaking down there on my days off."
"The greatest corndogs in the world are at Disneyland — the Little Red Wagon. It's on the right on Main Street."
Disney dreams aside, the two are in the midst of preparing for one of the biggest shows of their lives and becoming part of the Newsies family.
"I talked to Corey Cott, actually, on the closing day, and he gave me a few pointers about how much of a marathon Jack Kelly is," said DeLuca. "It's like the male version of Elphaba or Evita. It does not stop. I may be offstage for four minutes in Act One. Apparently, Jeremy Jordan told Corey Cott, 'There's no way you can prepare for this. You just have to do it.'"
Kara Lindsay, the original Katherine, "tweeted me," said Styles, "and I freaked out. She's so sweet. What's so funny is that I saw her on tour in Little House in the Prairie when Steve Blanchard [who plays Joseph Pulitzer on the Newsies tour] was playing her dad. Without giving anything away, there are several things [that come] full circle. I have a relationship with Steve in the show that's similar to that relationship. It's so exciting. She tweeted me the sweetest tweet, and I tweeted her back, and I felt so cool. I felt like a 'hashtag fansie.' She is so fantastic. I saw her in the show. I saw Liana [Hunt] in the show, and they both were so fantastic. It's such a great role. I'm so honored to continue this legacy."
As for her college final? "It was History of Musical Theatre," she said, "and there ended up being a short-answer question on Disney Theatrical Productions, Disney on Broadway, and I think I got it right! That worked out."
And, DeLuca's mother? "I called my mom," he said, "and she was out with her friends on her birthday. She said, 'This is the best birthday gift I have ever received.'"
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)