3 Ways Opening Night Nerves Help Andrew Keenan-Bolger

Photo Source: Luke Fontana

After originating the role of Crutchie in “Newsies” and hitting Broadway in shows like “Mary Poppins” and “Beauty and the Beast,” Andrew Keenan-Bolger is back and starring in the musical “Tuck Everlasting.”

On originating his role.
“I play Jesse Tuck, who is the youngest member of the Tuck family. He is eternally 17. He’s the one character who’s really embraced the beauty of being able to live forever. I began working on this six and a half years ago, right at the very first time they read the script aloud. I’ve gotten to be the person to say all these lines for the first time, and I’ve been able to shape the character around my strengths and weaknesses.”

On being himself.
“As I’ve grown in this business, the projects that I’ve cared the most about and the things that have been most rewarding are characters that I see myself in. That’s advice for anyone entering this industry. We emulate these people that we really look up to, but at the end of the day, the world already has them. What the industry does not have is whoever you are.”

On opening night nerves.
“I always get nervous. It’s usually a good thing. I worry about the nights that I’m not nervous, actually. I feed off the adrenaline. I feel like I’m a little bit more spontaneous. I try to trust my instincts a little bit more. And especially with this—this is going to be my first time playing a lead role on Broadway. I feel like there’s a lot at stake.”

On battling a ‘Peter Pan factor.’
“There really is so much of me in Jesse. It’s exciting because I feel so comfortable living in his skin. Especially with this character—he’s a 17-year-old, but he’s been forced to be 17 for basically the rest of eternity. I’ve definitely made a niche for myself in this industry playing young people, and there is a little bit of [a] Peter Pan factor that has gone into my adult life, where I’m straddling trying to be an adult and also trying to make myself come off as youthful. I think there’s honestly a little bit of a layer of sadness that goes into that that I’ve felt in my real life that I’m now able to exercise cathartically eight nights a week.”

On directing short films ‘Sign’ and ‘The Ceiling Fan.’
“I’m interested in the film world, I love being a storyteller. I think the advent of things like YouTube have made it possible for creators to tell stories cheaply and efficiently, and to have a built-in audience. I think one of the traps of theater—what makes it so amazing is that it’s not able to be mass-produced, but it also makes it hard to get work seen by people because if you’re a creator, you do a cabaret or something and maybe 100 people will see it and then it ends the night that you close it. Social media and DIY filmmaking have really allowed for a new generation of storytellers to emerge.”

Like this story? Read more of our Spotlight On interviews!