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Original company, North American Tour of "Newsies." Ben Cook is just left of center (photo by Deen van Meer). ©Disney
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Original company, North American tour of "Newsies." Ben Cook is on the second chair from the right (photo by Deen van Meer). ©Disney
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Dan DeLuca (Jack Kelly, center) and the original North American Tour company of "Newsies." Fairfax County native Ben Cook is to the immediate left of DeLuca (photo by Deen van Meer). ©Disney
Fairfax County native Ben Cook, 17, knew he wanted to join the cast of Disney’s musical Newsies when he saw clips of the spectacular choreography in the Broadway show. “I said, ‘I have to be in this show,’ ” says Cook. “Just to see so many male dancers up on stage doing all of this amazing dancing, but still making it look masculine and cool, it was just so inspiring.”
Cook tried out for the show and was cast in the ensemble as the character Race, one of the newsboys. He has since been on tour with the Tony-winning musical for a year. He and the rest of the cast will be at the Altria Theater from Nov. 3 to 8 as part of the Broadway in Richmond series.
Inspired by the newsboys who went on strike in 1899 to protest the unfair practices of publishing tycoons Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the play delivers the message of standing up for what you believe in, no matter the odds, Cook says. Based on the 1992 film of the same name (starring Christian Bale, Robert Duvall, Ann-Margret and Bill Pullman), he says the musical has something for both fans of the original film and newcomers to the story. Watching the film for the first time with some of his fellow cast members while already on tour with the musical, Cook observed how much the play serves as homage to the film. “We realized what an amazing job the creative team did in adapting the film,” he says. “You’ll hear some familiar lines and familiar songs … it does the movie proud.”
With eight shows a week, Cook says, “The schedule is pretty intense, but it’s worth it.” With a background in theater and dance, which he has fostered since the age of 9, Cook actually wanted to audition for Newsies when he was 15, but was disappointed when he found out he had to be at least 16. As soon as he was eligible, he auditioned and was elated when he found out he was cast.
He says that in preparation for the show, the touring cast got to sub in for the Broadway cast, learning from them as well. They spent four weeks in New York rehearsing prior to setting out on tour.
He notes the choreography is a huge draw of the show, winning a Tony. “It’s unbelievable what [Christopher Gattelli] and his assistant choreographer have done with [the numbers],” he says. “And with the score too by Alan Menken who won a Tony for that, they just did an unbelievable job.”
Of course, the message is also a big part of the show as well. Cook says even though the play is set more than a century ago, it’s relatable, and show-goers have and will be affected by the message.
“We get a great amount of response from fans of the show and it’s honestly so inspiring,” he says adding. “We get letters sometimes from kids and even adults saying how inspired they were by the show and so they picked up performing themselves again or they are ready to take on something new that maybe they didn’t think they could before.”
As for the opportunity to catch Newsies in Richmond, Cook says, “It will be worth your while, I promise, because it’s a really good show.” Here's a preview:
Tickets cost $38 to $78. 800-514-3849 or broadwayinrichmond.com.