Styling in the spotlight: Up close with Stephanie Styles of Newsies

imageBy Amanda McNulty   

Stephanie Styles became a sensation to theater geeks (including myself) across the globe when it was first announced that this quirky, blonde haired, green-eyed miss would portray the spunky reporter Katherine in Disney’s national tour of Newsies.

Not only is she extremely talented and beyond gorgeous, but she also is a certifiable theater and Disney geek! She gives young girls everywhere an icon to look up to; showing that fame will not diminish her quirky, one-of-a-kind personality.

The unexpected

“My lifelong dream has been to be a part of the Disney magic,” said Styles, who was sitting in her class at University of Michigan two years ago when she got a random call from her agent for a show Styles was familiar with, Newsies. She never expected her first audition to land her a major role in one of the biggest fan based shows the theatre community has ever seen.

“If you would have told me right out of college that I would be working for one of my favorite companies doing what I love to do,” she said, “I would have not believed you or said ‘that would be a dream come true.’”

A fateful phone call

On a Tuesday evening after her last school day ever, Styles got into bed, eager to wake up the next morning to fly back to New York City for a work session with all the possible candidates for the roles of the love interests Katherine and Jack.

The next day during the big audition, Styles was paired with multiple talented (and attractive) men to test the chemistry between the two leads. After an hour after her very final audition, Styles ran pack to her hotel, packed her suitcase, “shoved a piece of pizza” into her face,  and flew back to Ann Arbor. The very next day, Styles had a 10 a.m. vocal exam then another exam.

“I ran to a Panera to study for this exam,” she said. “The last two days I spent memorizing rooftop scenes and typewriter songs, not school!”

Just as Styles sat down to study, the phone rang. She picked up the phone to the casting directors of Newsies telling her she got the role! “I just sat in that Panera and didn’t care who was around me and I just started sobbing! It was a dream come true! I am usually a very Type A person, I care a lot about my studies and I had to go take this final!” Stephanie walked into her Musical Theatre exam and sat down shaking yet prepared to take it and ironically, one of the questions was “Explain everything you know about Disney productions we have studied”. That’s when Styles started crying all over again. “People probably looked at me thinking ‘Oh boy she didn’t study’ but I was just so overjoyed!” Although Styles found out about Newsies in April, she couldn’t tell anyone until the second day of rehearsal, which happened to be in September. “It was pretty wild, but i just couldn’t believe it! It was the hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep!”

Family support

“I’m so lucky in the fact that my family is so supportive of everything I’ve done. I mean, I don’t think that I could have done what I had to do to audition for Newsies and I was constantly flying back and forth”.

During Styles’ last full month of college, she was constantly traveling back and forth from New York where she auditioned for Newsies. You know, when you audition in New York you get a couple days notice and it’s either down the block or you could catch a train but the hard thing was traveling several miles, getting a hotel room, going to these places I’ve never been to.”

And if you thought it couldn’t get any busier, Styles was filming a movie in LA at the same exact time, which awarded her a SAG Acting card. All and all, this petite powerhouse is one dedicated worker but without the help of her family, Styles says that she wouldn’t be where she is today. “They were so supportive of visiting me so much on tour. We are all so close. My mother saw Newsies including the Broadway show and the tour 96 times!…What I couldn’t believe is that she couldn’t come to two more two show days before the tour ends to see 100 performances! It’s not even me, she just loves those dancing newsboys!”

Leaving home

The most daunting thing for Styles about leaving her hometown was the fact that she had never done a show eight times a week as a lead. “I had toured as a child but I had a legal guardian and it’s a lot different. This was a show that I had to do eight times a week and Newsies is literally a machine.”

image-2Styles felt that it was very important to give her all both to the Disney Theatrical family but also to that fans. “Anything that is unknown, anything that you haven’t done before is a little scary and I think that’s something Katherine relates to. She wants to be a reporter and I wanted to be apart of this so I took the leap and you just have to believe in yourself and go for it.”

A typical ‘fansie’ move

On a whim, Styles and the original national tour “Jack Kelly” Dan DeLuca entered the lottery for the second to last show of Newsies and also attended the closing show on Broadway and just sat in their seats, stunned that they would be continuing the legacy on the road.

“Dan is such a special guy to me. He was actually the first person I met at the Newsies audition!…We ended up going through this whole process together and you know, I had to kiss a lot of boys but Dan was always very special. I remember when we first got it and we couldn’t say anything we would be like ‘sooooooo how are you? Do you have anything coming up?…’”

Even before rehearsal started, Styles became fast friends with her fellow castmates including DeLuca and Jacob Kemp, who played “Davey” in the national tour. “We got dinner and then we went to the Nederlander (the theatre where Newsies was playing) and just sat there and looked at the outside of the theatre and just couldn’t believe we are doing this.”

The stage-door experience

Styles’ life was changed when she was 4 years old and attended The Phantom of the Opera. Even though most four year olds would not understand the complexity of The Phantom of the Opera, that did not stop Styles from falling in love with it. After seeing it twice in that same week, one beanie baby changed Styles life for the better. “I had a ghost beanie baby and I wanted to give the beanie baby to the Phantom!”

After the ghost beanie baby found its way to the actor, he was so touched that he decided to bring Styles backstage. “He ended up taking me and my parents backstage and he showed us how the prosthetics worked, how the mirror works and that’s one of my earliest memories. I remember the feel of his mask…that was my first ‘ah-ha’ moment when I realized this was a thing!” It was explained to Styles that the same way she was taking swimming lessons, people take dancing and singing lessons for theatre.

From that moment on, Styles knew this was what she wanted to do. That is one of the many reasons Styles holds the stagedoor near and dear to her heart. However, stagedooring a show like Newsies is far different than any other show. “People want to be friends with Katherine. I could be friends with everyone! With the boys, it’s a little bit more complicated when they are getting proposed for marriage!”

Creative craziness

“I’ve met all types of people, it has really been amazing….I am always overwhelmed by the creative aspect of some fans!”

Before Styles was the famous actress she is today, she was a theatre nerd. Well, maybe a little bit more than a theatre nerd. “I as obsessed with certain musicals. I would write fanficion and draw fan art and my fan art was wow it was so bad. It means so much to me to see fans being this creative…I always love to celebrate people’s gifts and creativity.”

Now fully moved into her New York City apartment, she has an entire gallery wall dedicated to the art and gifts fans had given her. “I’ve hung up a lot of the Newsies art because it just means so much to me.”

One specific stagedoor memory that sticks with Styles happened when the tour was just starting out in Philadelphia, in which Styles and other leads from the cast stagedoored on Halloween dressed as the characters from Frozen. “Moments when people were just waiting in the cold and in the rain were amazing because I get it. I was a fan, I still am a fan! The reason I love musical theatre is the stagedoor experience!”

Best advice

“The saying that rings true every single day of my life is that everything happens for a reason.” Styles wants her fans and others to just stay calm and stay faithful. No matter how long it takes, something good will happen.

“One day, you’ll just say ‘Wow, so that’s why that happened. That’s why I got this opportunity’ or ‘That’s why I didn’t get this opportunity because it allowed me to do so much more.’” It is something that comforts Styles and she holds the motto near and dear to her heart. Styles encourages people to educate themselves as much as possible in the thing that they love. “Education is something that is so important to everyone…I hate to be cheesy, but seize that day! Carpe that diem!!….Work hard and dream big.”

What’s next

Currently, Styles is involved in a few projects, none that she can really talk about, but it will soon be announced by the summer! “I am very happy. It is material that I have loved for a very long time and getting to be apart of it is so exciting…I’m really enjoying doing a lot of theatre right now.”

When asked what Styles will be doing in ten years, she replied “hopefully living at a disney theme park” which just shows how sweet and magical Styles truly is. She also hopes to be continuing to do what she loves and visiting every Disney theme park.

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