Alex Newell owns the mid-show standing ovation. It’s a uncommon honor and rarely prevalence, one usually reserved for an evening when a performer is absolutely on fireplace. For Newell, it occurs nearly each night. “It’s at all times very loopy, since you by no means suppose that that response goes to occur continuously,” Newell says over the telephone. “After I did As soon as on This Island, it occurred sometimes, sufficient that it was noticeable. However to have it occur each evening nearly is kind of actually flabbergasting typically.”
Newell at present stars as Lulu in Shucked on the Nederlander Theatre. The musical, set within the fictional Cob County, follows Maizy (performed by Caroline Innerbichler), a younger woman who units out to save lots of the city’s foremost crop, corn, when it blights. Newell performs Maizy’s quick-tongued cousin and the whiskey distiller. Their show-stopping quantity, “Independently Owned,” comes in the midst of act one. Newell’s vocals fly over the set’s excessive rafters. For his or her efficiency within the self-proclaimed corniest present on Broadway, Newell acquired the Tony Award for Greatest Efficiency by an Actor in a Featured Position in a Musical.
The Tony Award comes after years of onerous work. Newell, first recognized for his or her look on the competitors present The Glee Undertaking, from which they received a visitor spot in hit-show Glee, additionally starred in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on NBC. In addition they made their Broadway debut in 2017 in Michael Arden’s revival of As soon as on This Island, for which they acquired flowers within the theater world.
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Simply days after their win, Alex chats with ELLE.com to debate their historic Tony win, the messages they acquired from their Glee costars, and the position they’re dying to play.
How are you feeling after your Tony Award win?
It’s all nonetheless so surreal. It’s onerous, as a result of I nonetheless need to do the exhibits at evening. So, we’re nonetheless using the excessive however nonetheless within the drama on the finish of the day.
This was a historic Tony win as a result of each J. Harrison Ghee, who received Greatest Efficiency by a Main Actor in a Musical for Some Like It Sizzling, and also you have been the primary nonbinary actors to win Tony Awards. Many are saying this looks like a pivotal second within the theater trade. What does this imply to you and what do you suppose these wins imply to the Broadway group?
Now we have to create space to inform tales which can be totally different than what we truly know most days. Everybody’s story deserves to be instructed, I feel, good, dangerous, ugly, a narrative will be instructed, so long as we’re respectful about it.
What’s additionally necessary is your character, Lulu, just isn’t nonbinary within the present. What does that imply to you?
If I’m enjoying a personality in a present, and there’s no bat of an eye fixed, there isn’t a query about it, that’s really what artwork ought to be. I feel it ought to be mirrored, it ought to be revered. That’s my favourite half; nobody questions Lulu in any respect, as a result of that’s not what they’re speculated to do.
You labored with Michael Arden on As soon as on This Island. He received Greatest Path of a Musical on the Tony Awards for his revival of Parade. What was it wish to see him win that evening?
Michael gave me my Broadway debut. So, he at all times has a particular place in my coronary heart. He’s labored so onerous, and his imaginative and prescient is at all times so trustworthy and so true. So, it was sensible seeing him win.
Your Glee costar, Lea Michele, posted an image of you and her collectively after the Tony Awards. What was it like seeing her there?
Fantastic. I imply, it was great night. I’m not going to speak an excessive amount of about it, as a result of I don’t must, but it surely really was. It’s good. All of us come from a really great distance. Glee is rather like household. We didn’t get to select one another. We have been on this distinctive sort of vacuum and microcosm, however on the finish of the day, we’ll nonetheless help one another.
Have any of your different costars reached out to you? What have they stated?
I simply talked to Jenna [Ushkowitz] and Kevin [McHale] on their podcast. They have been extraordinarily excited and proud and glad. Amber [Riley] as properly. It’s a household. I can’t stress that sufficient.
At ELLE, we wish to ask performers about their “present should go on” second, a second the place the group needed to come collectively to make the present occur. What was that second for you?
I’ve by no means been the largest proponent on “the present should go on,” solely due to security and vocal well being and all that different stuff that comes with it. Like, typically it will probably’t go on. I feel extra just lately, all of our Maizys have been sick within the constructing, and so we simply rallied behind Robert Horn, who wrote our e-book, and Brandy Clark, who wrote our music with Shane McAnally, they usually stuffed the position of Maizy. It was this magical second with two of the writers, and it was simply one thing that by no means occurs. That was sort of stunning. It shouldn’t have occurred, but it surely was nonetheless sort of stunning to observe and expertise.
It is totally different as a result of, , Robert Horn is a stunning Jewish man. Brandy Clark is a rustic star, and so they’re not the traditional Maizy. They’re sharing this position. It’s simply totally different to see Robert’s thoughts and the way he envisioned a lot of the strains stated and his quirks about all of it.
I feel anybody that involves theater is already a fan of it, until they’re like a vacationer simply wish to see one thing. The viewers was simply so welcoming. They thought that they have been gonna get one thing they usually didn’t get that. However, they bought this. They weren’t biting they usually ended up loving it, as a result of it’s so particular. Nobody will get to listen to the e-book author and the music author sing and browse their very own materials ever.
What drew you to Shucked initially?
I learn so many books that I bought tired of. However, after I learn this I simply cackled out loud, as a result of it was totally different. It was very totally different than any comedy that I’ve learn in a really very long time. So, that’s why I did this. The e-book is hilarious. And it’s solely gotten higher since I learn it months in the past.
How does Shucked mirror our society?
It’s holding up a mirror and seeing how issues are, and the way we have to be extra of a group. Generally discounting one thing and throwing it away simply implies that it’s time so that you can develop and notice that it’s at all times been nice for you. You simply must respect it extra.
You’ve stated many instances that your voice is your temple. How do you be certain that your voice is taken care of each present? What does your self-care routine appear like?
I name out. I do. I had a mentor say, “Would you reasonably sing right this moment or sing for the remainder of your life?” I take that to coronary heart, as a result of I would reasonably sing for the remainder of my life, not simply the one efficiency.
What’s a job you’re dying to play?
Effie [White, from Dreamgirls]. I’ve grown up with this position. It was the titular, quote, unquote, plus dimension Black lady position. I’ve recognized Jennifer Holliday for longer than I’ve truly “recognized recognized” her as a result of I used to be such a fan. She was my idol. The position itself is that of this lady who was appeared much less than simply as a result of she didn’t match the stereotypical mildew that this man thought she ought to have. And she or he simply wished to sing, all she wished to do was sing and have all of her goals come true. Simply because she didn’t match the mildew that he thought, she was deemed lesser then. It’s the psychological factor of how darker skinned ladies, or Black lady usually, are seen as troublesome only for talking up typically. So, I feel that that’s why I’ve at all times been drawn to it, as a result of my life mirrors that so much. I imply, I’ve had lecturers have a look at me and say that my work ethic wasn’t adequate to do something or achieve success. So, having that behind my thoughts, I began to consider it, however I knew that it wasn’t true when all I wished to be was a performer. My work ethic simply didn’t apply to what you wished it to.
How do you see your self in Lulu?
The tune speaks for itself, “Independently Owned.” I’ve labored my whole profession over on my own. I’ve made this beautiful, sensible path for myself. I like that. I at all times say when courting, I don’t need anybody to return into my life, that’s going to subtract. I solely need somebody who’s gonna are available in so as to add, as a result of I’m independently owned in my very own life and profession. So, I feel we’re parallel in that as a result of we’re on this journey of discovering one thing else that may add to us. That doesn’t imply we’re nonetheless not unbiased and that we do additionally need different issues outdoors of that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.
Alex Newell stars as Lulu in Shucked on the Nederlander Theatre. Tickets can be found for buy right here.
Samuel is the Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief at ELLE Journal. His pursuits embrace music, theater, books, video video games, and something to do with Taylor Swift. He famously broke each his arms on the similar time in fourth grade.