Hollis’ Garett Hawe is sporting a newsboy cap these days.
The boyish actor, who made his Broadway debut just one year ago as Neleus in Disney’s Mary Poppins, is now playing Albert in Disney’s production of Newsies, which opened on Broadway in March and will run through August. The musical is based on Disney’s 1992 cult-hit film, which starred Christian Bale, Bill Pullman and David Moscow and was directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega.
Loosely based on New York City’s Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, Newsies tells the story of a band of energetic and endearing orphaned and homeless boys who supported themselves by selling New York World newspapers for Joseph Pulitzer.
Hawe, who moved to New York to pursue theater and dance after graduating from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music in 2009, started out with the production during its regional run at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. The musical played Paper Mill from late September through mid-October, selling out completely, before quickly moving to Broadway. A New York Times review of the Paper Mill production deemed it a “stirring crowd-pleaser.”
“The whole experience has exceeded everyone’s expectations of it,” said Hawe, who grew up Pepperell, Mass., and moved to Hollis with his family before starting high school.
His interest in theater was sparked at the early age of 9, when his mother’s friend asked him to audition for a part in her production of Oliver in Groton, Mass. Hawe says he was active in everything at that point — music, dance, sports — so he figured he would give theater a try, too. He auditioned and was cast in the production, and he never looked back.
“I gave up everything else,” said Hawe, who went on to perform youth theater with Nashua’s Peacock Players and Actorsingers as well as Manchester’s Palace Theatre and Acting Loft. “As I got older, I focused a lot more on dance. I kind of looked around and saw there were a lot of guys singing and acting, but there weren’t as many guy dancers. I thought maybe that could be my way into this difficult business, and I gave all my energy and time to it.”
Hawe convinced his parents to let him be home-schooled for the last two years of high school, which allowed him more rehearsal and training time during the week. He developed his own conservatory of sorts, mixing dance classes at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio in Boston and Nashua’s Northern Ballet Theatre with professional theater rehearsals and vocal lessons at Carey and Henderson Vocal Studios.
Hawe says the audition process for Newsies, which involved many different parts, was one of the longest he’s been through.
“Every male dancer wanted to be in this show,” said Hawe, whose first show out of college was a non-equity national tour of Oklahoma. “So many young male actors went out for this show. The final callback [featured] the most incredible dancers I have ever seen, so to be cast in it was so exciting. It’s been such a positive experience.”
He calls his character, Albert, a wise-cracking, prankster Newsie quite different from the roles he usually plays.
“I find myself playing nice, sweet guys, so playing a tough guy has been so much fun. There are 15 guys in the cast, and they’re all specific character” types, he said. One of the things Hawe likes best about the show is that most audience members can relate to at least one of the characters. He added that the Newsies cast is the biggest group of male dancers he has ever worked with.
When it comes to his own dance style, Hawe stretches across the board, having been trained in jazz, tap, ballet and modern dance. He says he has always admired actor-singer-dancer extraordinaire Gene Kelly.
“He is the type of actor and dancer I strive to be like — a classic song-and-dance man,” said Hawe, who is also the understudy for two of the musical’s lead roles. “There is a lot of technique, but you don’t necessarily see it on his face when he’s dancing.”
Though the Newsies run has Hawe performing eight shows per week, he says he makes it home to Hollis to visit his parents and sister and play with the family dogs as often as he can. It’s fairly easy to take a day trip, and his family has been able to visit him in New York to see the show, he said.
Hawe, who hopes for an extended run of Newsies, says the fact that he is living his dream life has taken some time to sink in.
“I am so grateful to be doing what I’m doing and to be from New Hampshire,” he said. “Being exposed to such a place that has so many opportunities in the arts … and to work with so many artistic people, I would definitely not be here if I had not been exposed to all of that when I was younger.”