If you ever want to meet someone who is living their ultimate dream, meet Andy Richardson. The 21 year old native Texan is currently touring the country with the Broadway musical Disney’s NEWSIES. The show will make a stop in Charlotte beginning August 9th at Belk Theater.

Andy can’t remember doing anything that he loved more than acting. At age 8 he played a mouse in “Cinderella” at the San Pedro Playhouse in San Antonio, though he’s more proud of a magic trick he pulled off with a chair, a string, and the Fairy Godmother. From there he and his sister (they are 11 months a part in age) became extras in a movie that was filming locally. They both fell in love with the camera, in different ways; she loved the behind the scenes aspect, while he adored being in the action. Now they share an apartment in New York City. And nothing much has changed other than her moving on to HBO and him moving into the big leagues on Broadway.

Though Andy made his Broadway debut as Danny Who in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” in 2007, “Gypsy” was his first job at the New York City Center earlier that same year. Months later ‘Gypsy” landed on Broadway and Andy went right along with the rest of the cast. When he grew out of the role, having stretched 3 inches in height, Andy decided to take a break and head back home to Texas.

The break didn’t last too long after Andy received word that Disney’s NEWSIES would become a musical. “I begged my agent to help me become a part of this production after the age was lowered to 16. A friend had previously become obsessed with the movie and after a while, I loved it too,” says Andy. He auditioned and eventually landed the role of Romeo, the flirt. Months later, the show transferred to Broadway and Andy, again, had proven himself talented enough to transfer with it.

“I owe my entire career to my parents. At such a young age, I didn’t grasp how big it [Broadway] was. I’m from Texas, so I’d heard of Broadway but didn’t realize what it meant. They helped me understand that I could do this for a living.” With his sights set so high, Andy’s mother made the sacrifice to move to New York and pursue his career in theater while his father and sisters stayed behind in San Antonio. (He was homeschooled during his senior year and graduated with three other students on stage after a performance.)

“If given the opportunity again, I’d make the same choices I’ve made. I’ve gotten to do so many amazing things.”

Disney’s NEWSIES centers around lead character Jack Kelly and his group of guys selling newspapers in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Many of them are poor and homeless, needing their jobs to simply eat. While playing the role of Romeo, Andy was an understudy for Crutchie, Jack Kelly’s disabled best friend. Within a couple years, Andy managed to snag the principle role of Crutchie. “The characters are completely different, but I believe I have characteristics of both. Though I wouldn’t just walk up to someone and just say ‘Hello, hello, hello beautiful!’ like Romeo would.” When asked about which role he liked better, he hesitated, but answered, “I really love Romeo because he gets to do all the dances and movements on stage that Crutchie, of course, doesn’t get to.”

Living a busy life of a performer isn’t easy. There are moments when Andy misses his family as well as major happenings with them. For instance, while in Canada touring, his oldest sister gave birth to the first grandchild in the family, a boy. But he’ll get to see the majority of them on the last stop of the tour in Austin (Texas) in the fall. “My grandmother bought about 40 tickets to that show, and just plans to hand them out. So I can’t wait to see everyone!” Andy laughs. “Both sides of my family are from Texas so I’m true Tex-Mex (in a country Texas twang).”

When asked about any advice he’d give a budding actor, Andy suggests, “Never stop learning. Not just in an educational sense, but in life. This can be a very tough business and you always have to be prepared. Even though I started at a young age and have been on Broadway, I still take voice lessons and dance classes because there are so many things I want to learn.”

Becoming adjusted to a show with a long run is common. Learning your lines, dance steps, dialects, and other things are normal, but constantly being a student of your craft is key to longevity in any business. There is always an understudy waiting behind the curtain to assume your role. Everyone wants their big break, so focus on what makes you an individual. “You should never try to imitate someone else’s talent. I appreciate what I have, and I really train and learn so I can be the best person I can be. And you can see that in NEWSIES.”

Wise words spoken from a 21 year old, but it looks like he’s already on the right track.

For more on Disney’s NEWSIES visit www.blumenthalarts.org.


Image courtesy of Dan van Meer.