Having spent a year starring in Follies -- first at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., before a limited-engagement Broadway revival and ending in Los Angeles -- Ron Raines (Alan, GUIDING LIGHT) was ready for a break. "I was so artistically fulfilled... and also physically exhausted," reveals the actor, who received a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Benjamin Stone. I was really not in a hurry to work after Follies in a big show."
But then Disney came calling, making Raines a short-term offer to play Joseph Pulitzer in the smash musical Newsies while John Dossett stars in another musical, Giant. "It's a perfect follow-up," Raines tells Soaps In Depth. "It's not a huge role that I have to carry a major part f the show like I did in Follies. Which I did not want to do immediately. I'm in three scenes -- they're fabulous scenes -- and two songs. A reprise of another song, so a song and a half, if you will! It's perfect."
On October 9, Raines made his debut in the musical based on the 1992 film, based on the real-life newsboys strike of 1899. Set in New York City at the turn of the century, the show tales the tale of a band of teenaged newspaper boys -- aka "newsies" -- who dream of a better life far from the hardships of the streets. But when publishing titans Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise distribution prices at the expense of the young peddlers, the boys across the city strike against the magnates. "It had a major impact at that time. It's very David against Goliath," notes Raines, who is scheduled to perform through Sunday, December 16. "That youthful, idealistic hope. And I'm Goliath!" Even though the young actors who play the newies carry the show, the character of Pulitzer is always front-and-center... even if he's not necessarily seen. "I'm talked about the entire time because I'm the bad guy!" Raines says with a chuckle. "I love that!"
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Over the course of his nearly forty-year theatrical career, Raines has played a part in just about every classic musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Lerner and Loewe, and Cole Porter. And he's thrilled to now be a part of a Tony Award-winning show put together by his contemporaries: music by Alan Menken (the composer behind the scores for Disney smash films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas), lyrics by Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein. "It's a terrific creative team. And re-creative team, meaning the director, choreographer, music director," Raines praises. "They really show craftsmanship and knowledge and respect for the musical theater form. It's a really well-crafted musical comedy -- not a concept musical a la Les Misérables. I'm thrilled to be part of something that's really put together by my generation."
Raines adds that working on a newer production is no different than the time-tested standards like Oklahoma!, Man Of La Mancha and The King And I. "A good show is a good show," he insists. "And if I'm right for the role, I'm right for the role. You play a piece of the puzzle, of the whole pie."
Anything Can Happen Next
Besides his latest return to Broadway, Raines continues to perform in concert, and can be heard on the upcoming Celebrating The American Spirit CD, scheduled for release on iTunes on Tuesday, October 23, and in other outlets on Tuesday, October 30. "You keep rolling along. That's the wild thing about doing what we do. You never know what's around the corner until the phone rings," says the performer. "It's like when we started with Follies, at the Kennedy Center just for 6 weeks. And fast-forward a year. I didn't know that was going to happen. There's no business like show business, as Mr. Irving Berlin said and sang about!"