Under the Monocle: Sam Griffin, Marriott Theatre’s Newest Newsie


Photo courtesy of Marriott Theatre

Promotional ad for “Newsies”, Griffin pictured third from left.

Every musical theater student dreams of one day finally being in a professional show, and for senior Sam Griffin, this dream already become a reality. At 10 a.m. on any given school day, most typical York students sit in 3rd period; however, senior Sam Griffin is just now arriving to an eight hour dance rehearsal. This begins the daily routine of rehearsals for an actor in the Marriott Theatre’s production of Newsies, a routine that Griffin has juggled for the past month.

Sam Griffin started his dance career at the young age of five after seeing Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”.

“I wanted to be a mouse, and so I insisted that my mom sign me up for ballet classes so that I could be in it,” said Griffin. “I realized when I was 13 that dance was something I couldn’t live without and I started to think about a possible career involving dance.”

Griffin has danced ever since at Ballet Champaign, Salt Creek Ballet, and Ballet Chicago during the summers, and whenever he can during the school year. Griffin also achieved his five-year-old self’s dream and performed in “The Nutcracker” with both the Chicago Festival Ballet and Salt Creek Ballet.

An open call for dancers in June brought Griffin to audition for “Newsies”, along with about 85 other dancers and even more from casting calls in New York. He made it through three rounds of cuts until he remained one of under 10 men they asked to sing and read lines for a few roles. He got a call about a week after his audition from the artistic director telling him that they wanted to offer him a role in the show.

Photo courtesy of Marriott Theatre
Sam Griffin’s head shot for Newsies.

“I was shocked and ecstatic when I found out I got the part,” said Griffin. “I got the call when I was on the train home from dance classes downtown, and I immediately got off the train and got in the car and told my family and friends about it. It was truly a dream come true for me that I was going to be in a professional show and that it was “Newsies”.”

The Newsies cast started rehearsing Oct. 2 and rehearse for six hours Monday through Saturday. They move to the theater on October 21st and have their first preview performance on October 25th. They will have rehearsals during the day until the show officially opens on November 1st.

Inspired by the real-life New York City Newsboy Strike of 1899, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a ragged band of teenage ‘newsies,’ who dreams only of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. But when the newspaper publishers raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to fight them.

One would think that a professional production must differ greatly from high school productions, but Griffin believes that the Marriott Theatre has many similarities to York Drama.

“Luckily our director at York, Mrs. Marianetti, is very professional in her approach to all of the shows we do here so there are not many differences between the two,” said Griffin. “The main difference is the time to prepare for the shows because in high school we usually have a few months to put a show together but for Newsies we will only have had three weeks before our first performance.”

At York, Griffin most recently danced in last year’s Spring Musical, West Side Story, playing Jet gang member, Riff. The very dance-heavy role included dancing in group numbers and solos in the show. Sam, one of the two dance captains for West Side Story, also taught, cleaned, and corrected choreography during rehearsals to make sure the dancing looked perfect.

Photo by Becca Rogers
Sam Griffin (center) dancing as Riff in York’s Spring production of West Side Story.

“They say that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” said director Marianetti. “Sam Griffin is the best example I know of this being true. He is not only prepared, but is incredibly talented and has been training for an opportunity such as this his whole life.”

The Drama Club will take a field trip Nov. 3 to see the show, but if any non-drama club members want to support a fellow Duke, pick up some tickets to Newsies on the Marriott website and check out Sam in this amazing production!

Newsies runs Oct. 25 through  Dec. 31. For more info visit: http://www.marriotttheatre.com/