Above: Adam Kaplan in Mystery of Edwin Drood when he was a Staples Player. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy
Adam Kaplan estimates he appeared on Broadway as a newsie 600 times, including thirty-five times in the lead role of Jack Kelly. Needless to say, when he stopped by the Staples auditorium at the beginning of the school year, where one of the very first high school productions of Disney’s Newsies will take place in November, an awestruck audience of teen cast members awaited.
The twenty-six-year-old actor, who grew up in Westport, spent over an hour sharing advice and anecdotes from his days in Players (class of ’08), his time at Elon University, auditioning in New York, an unforgettable run in Newsies, and his experience playing the lead in the Kinky Boots national tour. Despite skyrocketing onto a Broadway stage within months of graduating from college—and enjoying nonstop success ever since—Kaplan is refreshingly grounded, grateful, and excited for his alma mater to be one of a handful of high schools selected by Disney Theatricals to pilot Newsies (he was actually the one who announced that news, via video, to Staples Players last spring).
“I saw Adam perform in Newsies on Broadway when I was in eighth grade,” says senior Charlie Zuckerman. “When the show started I realized that Adam was playing Jack at that performance. He was fantastic!” Zuckerman will share the role of Jack Kelly with junior Nick Rossi in the Players show, leading a cast of sixty-nine. No doubt the pair are relieved they have each other and an intense rehearsal period ahead, so they won’t face the unfathomable challenge Kaplan encountered on Broadway when the lead and other understudy both fell sick.
“I got a call at about noon on a Sunday that they needed me to go on at 3 that day. I hadn’t learned Act II yet. My put-in—which is when I’d rehearse the show with the cast—was scheduled for two weeks later,” recounts Kaplan. He doesn’t recall much from that incredible show, except a couple minor dialogue errors and a confusing chase scene, in which the actor playing Davey directed him by ad libbing, “No Jack, this way!” He does have a vivid memory of turning to a cast mate just before the curtain rose and saying, “This is happening!” The pair would repeat that mantra—symbolic of their dreams coming true—before every show thereafter. Kaplan expects Newsies to endure as his favorite show of all time.
Zuckerman and his cast mates drank in Kaplan’s many tips, like newsies craving juicy headlines. “His thoughts on self-care really stuck with me,” notes Zuckerman. “It is just so important to respect your body, voice, and mind.” Choreographer Christopher Hudson Myers (a Broadway veteran himself, who shares the choreographer role with his wife, Rachel MacIsaac Myers) was pleased to hear Kaplan emphasizing that being cast in a show does not mean stopping attending regular dance classes. Same goes for voice lessons, which, for many students in the competitive program, are a regular part of their ongoing training.
Though Zuckerman landed a dream role this time around, he also appreciated Kaplan’s advice on rejection. “Another actor told me, ‘If you have a bad audition, you have the subway ride to sulk about it. Then you come up and rejoin the world,’” says Kaplan. He reassured the Players, some of whom didn’t get cast this time around, that he had his share of audition disappointments in high school.
Kerry Long, who co-directs alongside husband David Roth, comments, “We are so grateful to Adam for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit with us. It was so rewarding to see Adam, all grown up and so confident and successful, share his story with our current students. Seeing the way that our current Players looked at him—with awe, admiration and a bit of hero-worship—was so special. Players really is a great big family and it’s always wonderful to welcome home a ‘big brother’ to tell his tales of the world!”
Tickets for Newsies will be available at staplesplayers.com beginning on Saturday, October 21.
Performance dates (at Staples High School, 70 North Avenue).
Friday, November 10 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, November 11 at 3 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, November 12 at 3 pm
Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 pm
Friday, November 17 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, November 18 at 3 pm and 7:30 pm