INTERVIEW: With Chaz Wolcott from Disney’s NEWSIES, Presented by: Arena Stage

INTERVIEW: With Chaz Wolcott from Disney’s NEWSIES, Presented by: Arena Stage. The Tony Award-Winning Musical, Disney’s Newsies, is currently running at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington D.C. The show is currently scheduled to run from November 1-December 22, 2019. We hope you enjoyed their Insta-Takeover recently, and now we wanted to give a little more insight into the production from the eyes of one of their stars!

“In the summer of 1899, the newsboys of New York City took on two of the most powerful men in the country — Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst — and won. Inspired by true events, the Broadway smash hit is a testament to the power of standing up and speaking out. The Tony Award-winning musical features fan-favorites like “Carrying the Banner,” “King of New York” and “Seize the Day.” Newsies is “a winning, high-energy musical” (Entertainment Weekly) just in time for the holidays and perfect for the whole family.”

Recently, we chatted with one of the shows performers, Chaz Wolcott (Race) about his experience with Disney’s Newsies and his time at the Arena Stage and we think you are in for a real treat!

Photo Credit: Michael Hull Photo

Chaz has an impressive resume, particularly with Disney’s Newsies. He has filled many roles for the show through out his career, including actor, director, and choreographer. He is best known for his performance as ‘Buttons’ in the film version of Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical, and is currently cast as ‘Race’ for his performance at the Arena Stage. Chaz has performed in Disney’s Newsies over 800 times during his career, and is extremely passionate about the performing arts as well as his charitable work with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

We hope you enjoy getting to know more about Disney’s Newsies through one of their top performers. (We sure did!)

Chip and Co.: What is the biggest challenge you have taken away from your experience in Newsies?

Chaz: Performing in the round (with audiences on all sides of you) is so different than performing on a typical proscenium stage. It’s been really interesting to learn the ins and outs of how to perform for an audience in the round!

Chip and Co.: Have you enjoyed your time on the Arena Stage with your fellow cast members? Which cast members have blown you away with their performances?

Chaz: The cast at Arena is incredible. I am so blown away by all their performances, especially that of one of our 16-year-old company members, Luke Spring, who will knock your socks off with his amazing tap dancing!
Chip and Co.: Do you feel Newsies still connects with audiences and can be reflective of todays current events?
Chaz: I think Newsies is even more relevant in 2019 then when the show first debuted on Broadway. We are witnessing multiple children’s crusades happening in our current society from the students in Parkland, Florida to the climate change activists all over the world demanding a better future for our planet. Newsies is about a group of young people taking on the most powerful people in New York in 1899, but it feels exactly like modern day movements you read about in the news every day.
Chip and Co.: You have experienced all kinds of productions that range from touring for months on end to single location performances. Do you prefer to tour and visit new places when you perform, or find it more comforting to have a “home” theater during a shows run?
Chaz: Both types of situations have their perks and their challenges. I love finding a home and building a family in one theater, but I also love traveling and exploring new places so touring can be pretty fun as well. Honestly, in a business that is so tough to find work, I’m just happy to have a job doing what I love, no matter where it is!
Photo Credit: Arena Stage

Chip and Co.: You have made magic for Newsies audiences previously as ‘Buttons’, but in this performance you play ‘Race’, what are the biggest differences between the two characters?

Chaz: It is really interesting to find different characteristics for each Newsie depicted in the play. Buttons was more of a follower, one of the boys, not entirely developed in the script, whereas Race is one of the leaders and helps to drive the plot throughout the whole show. One of my favorite things about ensemble shows like this, is creating a specific identity for each of the characters using context clues from their lines in the script. The character of Race is actually rooted in a historical figure of the Newsboys’ Strike- Ed ’Racetrack’ Higgins- so it’s also been fun to research him and incorporate that into my show.

Chip and Co.: If you had to sing impromptu Disney Karaoke for a blind audition what song(s) would be your go to?

Chaz: This is a tough one – but I’d have to go with “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid or a one man production number of “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast!
Chip and Co.: What do you hope audiences take away from Newsies at the Arena Stage?
Chaz: I hope audiences find inspiration in the themes depicted in the show of children taking over the reigns on the future of the world. We live in a time in America, where change is coming, and coming quickly, and instead of being scared of it, I think Newsies shows us to “step aside and invite the young to share the day”.
Chip and Co.: Finally, What advice would you give young performers, directors, and choreographers who may be sitting in the audience?
Chaz: It took me 7 auditions to Book my first Newsies.  I’ve now performed the show over 800 times in 70 cities across 2 countries, performed in a live film of the show, choreographed it 5 times and directed it 3 times. Don’t let a few NO’s stop you from getting what you want!
Photo Credit: Arena Stage

“CHAZ WOLCOTT (Race / Ensemble / Crutchie u/s) is elated to make his Arena Stage debut with Newsies. Chaz’s New York/National Tour credits include Disney’sNewsiesCats (Mr. Mistoffelees) and Me and My Girl (City Center Encores!). Regional theatre credits include Music Theatre Wichita, Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Fulton Theatre, Casa Mañana, Westchester Broadway, Lyric OKC and The Gateway. Chaz was Buttons in the film version of Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical and was featured on So You Think You Can Dance. Chaz is an alum of Oklahoma City University and is currently on faculty at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway in NYC.”

Thank-you Chaz for the wonderful interview and giving us some insight into this truly timeless story you love so dearly. Special thanks to our friends at Arena Stage for spectacular opportunities to dive deeper into Newsies and the Arena Stage. Thank-you!

Be sure to check back here at Chip and Company for all things Disney and for our review of Disney’s Newsies presented by the Arena Stage around mid-November! We look forward to seeing the performance soon.

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