Arturo Hilario /El Observador
Steve Blanchard, who plays Joseph Pulitzer in Disney’s “Newsies”, spoke to us about his beginnings and what it’s like playing the “villain” in this production, which mixes a musical and history.
Hi Steve, can you tell us what sparked the acting bug?
I was raised in Southern Maryland, and I basically was a sad outside linebacker. Someone dropped out of the school play and I took over. Then I got the acting bug and I’ve been doing it ever since.
What was your next step towards theater?
I went to study Drama at the University of Maryland and then I moved to New York and got my Union Card doing children’s theater. Then I made my Broadway debut in 1984 with the “Three Musketeers” as the pivotal 3rd guy from the left. I understudied Aramis but I never got to go on and we lasted a week. That’s show biz.
After “Three Musketeers”, what was the next big moment of your career?
When I booked “Camelot” with Robert Goulet and I was playing the part that he played that made him famous (Lancelot Du Lac ). I had a chance to work with Robert, it was a thrill.
How did you get the part as Joseph Pulitzer in Disney’s “Newsies”
They called me to do auditions for Pulitzer, I was actually out of town, I was in California at the time with family. I came in, did my thing, flew back to California and they called me in for a callback. So I flew back and they said ‘okay let’s do it’. And my wife had also done three shows for them as well and they got the idea to put us together, because we have a little girl on the road with us, so we’re a traveling family.
What was the climate like in that era?
It was very tumultuous, actually it was 15-20 years after the time period from Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York”. Very rough times. It was basically adults fighting for their turf and everyone was shooting and killing being murdered and what happened was children were left in the streets which is littered with orphans with nowhere to go, no way to make a living so it kind of stems from that, the ‘newsies’. That was their life, their ways and means of surviving, selling newspapers. It was very much the haves and the have-nots. So Joseph Pulitzer was certainly a have and the newsboys and the orphans on the streets were the have-nots. One kid rose up and said ‘we’re not gonna take it anymore’ and formed a union and struck against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst who were trying to raise the prices of the newspapers. It’s kind of all romanticized in the show but in truth it was pretty tough.
How did you go about playing a historical figure like Joseph Pulitzer in the play?
It’s an honor and privilege to research the role. It’s especially more of a responsibility when you’re playing a historical character because there’s so much written about them, there’s so much known about them that you really have to do your due diligence and be extremely dedicated to your research. It’s not like a fantastical character where you can create just about anything and it’ll be believable. When you have an actual person you really have to watch your p’s and q’s and do honor and do homage to that person.
Anything you learned or got from playing Pulitzer? Any favorite moment for you?
I think that he wasn’t a bad guy but for the purposes of our little show he has to be the big bad wolf. That being said, you have to be able to find the element of humanity. At some point you have to be able to resolve his conflict with our lead character and come to terms with his own life, and his own relationships with his kids. And I think that’s the trick, that’s the magical moment of the show when that happens because if you don’t have that there’s no resolve in the conflict.
What can audiences expect when they go see Disney’s “Newsies”?
The show is newsies and dancing. Especially for young kids, to see this type of art in terms of dance it’ll blow them away. Our kids are so athletic and so incredibly talented that it’s mesmerizing to watch. The audience is on the edge of their seats. Whether you’re 5 or 95 you’ll find some element of the story that will just hook you in and take you on a ride.
“Newsies” is at Broadway San Jose May 10 through the 15. Individual tickets for NEWSIES are available now online at www.ticketmaster.com, in-person at the City National Civic Box Office (150 West San Carlos St.), or by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787).