Corey Cott Is the New King of Newsies

The talented newcomer shares his behind-the-scenes thoughts about taking over the role of Jack Kelly in the hit musical.

Corey Cott
Corey Cott
© Tristan Fuge

Landing a starring Broadway role as the “King of New York” — aka Jack Kelly in the hit Broadway musical Newsies at the Nederlander Theatre — is certainly a dream come true for Corey Cott. The actor, who just graduated from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama this past May, recently spoke with TheaterMania about his ambitious debut on the Great White Way.

THEATERMANIA. How did this role come about?

COREY COTT: I was auditioning for a bunch of stuff while I was in college. One day, I went to [casting director] Bernard Telsey’s office to audition for something else and found out that Newsies was looking for a Jack Kelly standby. I had an audition, they called me back the next week, and I got the job. It was about being in the right place at the right time.

TM: What was the hardest thing about juggling your classes and auditions?

CC: I remember one morning waking up at 4:30am, flying from Pittsburgh to New York for an 11:30am audition, and then flying back to Pittsburgh for a 2:30pm class. Oh, I also had a show that night, Sweeney Todd. My goal was to have an acting job once I graduated. I didn’t want to wait tables or have a catering job. This is what I studied to do.

TM: Did you get any other job offers besides Newsies?

CC: Yes, it’s incredible. Before I was offered this gig, I was offered a part in the Second National Tour of Wicked and the lead role in the Off-Broadway musical Bare at New World Stages. I was thinking of taking Bare, because it would have given me the opportunity to create a role in New York. And then I got a call saying Ryan Murphy and his team wanted to test me for Glee. But my heart felt right with Newsies.

TM: What do you love about Jack Kelly?

CC: So many things! He is a natural-born leader and he doesn’t even know he is a leader. Everyone gravitates towards him. That’s his gift. He’s witty and street smart, and has the most integrity and the most heart of any character I’ve ever played. He has so much willpower. As you can tell, I admire him a lot.

TM: You have a childhood buddy in the cast, right?

CC: Yes! Ben Fankhauser (who plays Davey) and I grew up together in Ohio, and we did many musicals together. I remember in 10th grade, we were hanging out and joked that we’ll be on Broadway together one day — not thinking it would ever happen.

TM: Did he help you get down the New York accent?

CC: In school, we had an entire year of learning accents and dialects, so I had to dig back to my Brooklyn and New York accents. It’s not a current Brooklyn accent either. I also had a three-hour session with our dialect coach. Doing the accent is a lot of fun.

TM: This part is quite a workout for you, both vocally and physically. What did you do to prepare for the role?

CC: Between everything, I have lost 12 pounds, and I am eating more than I normally do! The show is my exercise and it is tiring. I have to stay healthy, so I drink extra water and I’m taking vitamins. I started working with a vocal coach, as well, because I’ve never done a role this big before.

TM: Are you enjoying the fan reaction?

CC: It’s explosive. That’s the best part, besides being on Broadway every night! I will never forget my first bow, and I love signing autographs after the show. It’s a moving, thrilling, and surreal experience.

TM: What message do you think this musical sends to kids?

CC: I think what’s inspiring is that you have a bunch of young guys on Broadway pursuing their dreams, and that’s the general message of the show. Newsies says that you have to stand up for what you believe in, whether it is your faith or your current state of living. Know who you are and make sure your voice is part of this world we live in.

Featured In This Story

West Side Story

Closed: February 16, 2003