When Adam Kaplan was 6 years old, his parents took him to see Staples Players‘ production of “West Side Story.”
The high school troupe is often praised for its “Broadway-quality” work. As a toddler, Adam didn’t know it from Broadway.
But he was inspired by the acting, singing and dancing. A decade later at Staples, he earned high marks for his own roles in shows like “Romeo and Juliet,” “Children of Eden” and “Diary of Anne Frank.”
After graduating from Elon University as a music theater major last spring, Adam embarked on an endless round of New York auditions.
Next Tuesday — less than a year out of college — Adam makes his Broadway debut. He’s both Morris Delancey and a newsboy — and the understudy for Jack Kelly, the lead — in “Newsies.”
Before Elon, Adam had not danced much. But in musical theater, he learned how to dance. He also took classical voice courses, plus contemporary and pop music.
Thanks to Elon’s emphasis on building contacts and relationships, Adam spent 2 summers with the Flat Rock Playhouse, a professional equity theater in North Carolina. The 1st year he had ensemble roles; the next, he had a lead in the vocally demanding, dance-heavy “Hairspray.”
Last summer, Adam got his Equity card at the prestigious Music Theatre of Wichita. Doing 5 shows in 10 weeks, working alongside “unbelievable people,” hearing great stories and keeping his eyes wide open, Adam grew tremendously.
This fall in New York, he auditioned up to 4 times a day.
“I told myself I wouldn’t pass up any opportunity to be seen by anyone,” Adam says.
He also took classes with casting directors. “There’s always more to learn,”Adam notes. “Theater is constantly evolving and changing.”
In September, he saw “Newsies.” The musical — about early 20th century newsboys — captivated him. He loved Jack — the tour de force lead, with powerful songs — and admired the ensemble, filled with “ridiculously talented boys who’ve been dancing since they were 2.”
One recent Friday, Adam went to a chorus call for the show. Called back for an appointment 4 days later, he sang Jack’s big number, “Santa Fe.” The room was filled with the director and Disney producers. They were looking for an understudy for Jack.
The next day, Adam returned. This time he was asked to tap dance to another show-stopper.
Each step of the process, he fell more in love with the show.
His final callback was that Thursday. It won him the job.
He calls his dual roles — the authority figure Morris, and a rabble-rousing newsboy — “the best of both worlds.”
Being Jack’s understudy is icing on the cake.
Adam has been watching shows, taking notes, then learning his roles during intense rehearsals. The cast has embraced him.
So has the show’s rabid fan base. Even before the official announcement, Twitter and Tumblr were filled with posts about Adam.
Next Tuesday (February 19) at 7:30 p.m., as the Nederlander Theatre curtain rises, Adam Kaplan makes his Broadway debut.
He’ll be nervous, he admits. But he’s sure the adrenaline will kick in too.
“I know it will be emotional,” he says. “This is something I’ve wanted for so long. I still haven’t processed it all.”
He’ll be buoyed by the support of family and friends.
“I grew up just an hour away,” Adam notes. “It’s so great, having everyone so near.”
His road to Broadway began 16 years ago in the Staples auditorium, watching “West Side Story.” It wound through Players, on to North Carolina and Wichita.
But Adam Kaplan is definitely not in Kansas anymore.