But nobody in that room was prepared for what was about to happen. The casting director handed us all a pretty standard registration form, and at the bottom was a "Director's Notes" section we were instructed not to write in. It contained a 5x5 grid full of the names of various gymnastics techniques.
As we were reading this over, I heard a kid next to me say, "What the hell is a Valdez?" and I came to a strange realization. Everyone in this room was as screwed as I was. Because complicated techniques like the Valdez were listed on that paper, every fanatical dance mom who brought their son to this audition was about to be as disappointed as my parents already were. (Not about the audition; just in general.) Let me be clear: I can't actually do a Valdez (it's some pretty high-level gymnastics floor shit), but I at least knew what it was. While I had prepared myself to act, sing, tumble, and tap dance at a moderately above-average level of competency (while completely ignoring the ballet), the dancers in the room had neglected every other bleeding requirement of being a Newsie.
This was going to be a long day.
Leonard Mc Lane/DigitalVision/Getty Images
The director and choreographer were a little overwhelmed -- which was understandable, since there were freaking 52 of us in the room. There's a dance break in the middle of the show's main number, "Seize The Day" (from roughly 2:02 to 3:45 in this video), and we learned that choreography as one over the span of about 90 minutes.
While I certainly tried my darnedest to spin on cue and not fall on my ass in front of the actual professionally-trained dancers all around me, I was really banking on my singing and the shreds of an accent I picked up living with a roommate from New Jersey to propel me into at least a callback. Hell, I was even confident enough in my tap dancing ability to handle the main tap number (which I'd watched probably a thousand times) at the beginning of Act II. But I got to do none of that.
I was crushed.
After the dance class, the directors listed maybe 10 names who would get to tap dance, and from that group, only a few guys would get to move on to singing and tumbling and reading monologues in a Brooklyn accent. By the time any of that was happening, I was already drowning my sorrows in a protein shake and a chicken gyro.
As I was walking back to my car, I ran into "What the hell is a Valdez?" kid, who had been among the ten to get to tap dance. Even though he was still thrilled that he'd even gotten to move on to the that portion, he had to admit he wasn't much of a singer, and that the tapping had shaken some guys' confidence.
We would later find out that they didn't keep anybody from the Detroit audition, and according to the Newsies Instagram account, it looks like they only took three new guys nationwide. That works out to just three-fifths of a cast member per audition.
Put together like some kind of adorable Frankenstein monsters.
Honestly, I'm not bitter about this in the slightest. I had a ton of fun learning new stuff, gained valuable audition experience, and I still show up to an adult tap class on Saturday mornings. I'm coming for you, Riverdance.
Isaac won't be discouraged if you don't follow him on Instagram or Twitter, or send him an email.
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