Extra, extra! Read all about Broadway’s Andrew Keenan-Bolger, who limped his way into our hearts as Crutchie in Newsies, the Tony-winning Disney musical about scrappy New York City newsboys in 1899. After briefly crashing the North American tour last year, he appears in the filmed version of that staging, showing in select movie theaters this month.
Even when he’s not queening out over Drag Race, Keenan-Bolger seizes the day to be visibly gay.
You left Newsies on Broadway in March 2013. Why did you want to play Crutchie again for the film?
I always leave a show feeling that there’s unfinished business. You never feel like you’ve arrived at the perfect performance, but I particularly felt that way with Newsies because it was my big taking-off point as an adult actor in New York. Plus, I got to reunite with three of my Broadway castmates, Jeremy Jordan, Kara Lindsay, and Ben Fankhauser.
Was getting back on that old crutch just like riding a bike?
Oh, man. Some things came right back, but other things I really had to drill—especially some of the music. I think I’d learned some harmony lines wrong and had been singing them wrong for years!
You also got to sing a new solo, “Letter From the Refuge.”
One of the reasons I was excited to do the film was to get a crack at this beautiful song that Alan Menken and Jack Feldman wrote for the tour. The show’s so explosive with energy, so there aren’t a lot of intimate, tender moments. This sad, simple song gives the story a new level of complexity.
What was the best part about doing Newsies on Broadway?
It looked like we were having fun because we really were. It’s unusual to have a cast with 18 young guys, especially dancers. Pretty much all of us had been the only boy in our dance classes, and suddenly we were doing this exciting new musical with other boys who had similar identities. The bond was real. I didn’t have brothers growing up, and then I had a lot of them. They’re still my best friends. I’m on group texts with half of them.
Your youthful look allows you to still play teenagers. Now that you’re in your 30s, are you itching for more mature roles?
Sure. I’m looking toward film and television, because there are just so many more characters with more complicated identities than you might get in the 30 Broadway shows running at any given time.
Seeing sweet little Andrew Keenan-Bolger have gay sex in an episode of Looking was a clutch-the-pearls moment.
[Laughs] It was definitely a decision, being a product of Disney, to turn that on its head and, you know, do another thing that I enjoy doing.
Aside from Newsies, you’ve done family-friendly Broadway musicals like Tuck Everlasting and Mary Poppins. You’ve also co-written a series of books about musical theater nerds geared toward middle schoolers. What kind of responsibility comes with having so many young fans?
It’s a lot of responsibility, especially as an out gay man in the entertainment industry, but it’s been really rewarding. My new book, Jack & Louisa: Act 3, actually deals with queer and questioning youth. I know there are a lot of queer or questioning kids who follow me on social media, and I want to put it out there that you can be out, happy, comfortable with yourself, and still succeed in a career that you love.
Some fans seem very invested in your relationship with your boyfriend, Scott Bixby.
It’s sort of hilarious. I was at BroadwayCon recently, and people were coming up and asking for selfies with Scott. As a journalist, he wasn’t prepared for that.
You got interviewed at BroadwayCon by Ginger Minj.
I’m a huge Drag Race fan, so I spotted her from across the convention hall and starting running up to everyone, asking, “What’s Ginger Minj doing at BroadwayCon?!” I was surrounded by fancy Broadway people, but of course I fangirled hardest over someone from Drag Race.
Are you looking forward to the upcoming season of Drag Race?
Yes! One of my old college classmates Alexis Michelle is on it. She’s an amazing queen—and I can’t wait to see her bring a little musical theater to the competition.
Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical is playing in select theaters February 16, 18, and 22.