After delighting SoCal audiences a few years back with multiple appearances on our musical theater stages, Daniel Switzer is now touring the country with Newsies The Musical, which is about to make a two-week stop at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center For The Arts. I recently got to chat with Daniel about his career, and about being back in a place he once called home.
Daniel, you must be excited about being back in Southern California for a while after having been SoCal-based. What are you most looking forward to about the Costa Mesa run at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts?
I’m really excited to be back in California. I’ve definitely missed the sun and the pool, but I’m even more so excited to get to see old friends!
How did a Midwestern boy from St. Louis first get bitten by the musical theater bug?
My mother took me to see Peter Pan at the St. Louis Muny. It’s the largest outdoor theater in the U.S. and they put on eight shows every summer. Cathy Rigby brought her production there and it changed my life. I told my mom that night that, “I’m going to be on the stage one day.” I was four years old.
Wow, you did get the performing bug young! Can you talk a bit about your journey from Missouri to college in Illinois to a professional career?
I’ve always loved performing. I danced most of my childhood and got involved heavily in Show Choir and my High School shows. I just really loved it and when I would go see professional shows, I would always think, “That looks so fun, I could do that for a living.” So I decided to look for colleges with musical theater programs.
Which school did you end up picking?
I went to a small school outside of Chicago called Rockford University. We were always encouraged to audition in school, so I did summer stock in the Midwest every summer. My senior year before I graduated I was offered CATS National Tour, my first big gig out of school!
What an amazing break that must have been, after which you and I got to know each other a few years back when you were doing shows in and around L.A. starting with Hairspray for 3-D Theatricals. What made you pick Southern California as your home base?
I visited California on tour with CATS and really loved it, so when the CATS tour ended I got offered a small part at PCPA Theaterfest in Santa Maria, CA. From there I auditioned for L.A. theater that summer and decided I would make a pit stop to L.A. before heading to New York.
The last time I saw you less than two years ago, you were doing a Hollywood Fringe Festival show … and then POW! You were touring the country in Wicked. How long and tough a process was it to get cast in that National Tour?
It’s definitely not an easy process. I auditioned for Wicked in the summer while doing the Hollywood Fringe production of The Real Housewives Of Studio City, another great show to be a part of. I did three days of auditions, including singing, reading sides for Boq, dancing, partnering and doing lifts with the girls. I thought it went well but didn’t hear anything for months. Then, randomly I got a call from my agents that the spot had opened up on the tour and I was offered the job. I thought it had been too long but it all worked out.
And what about Newsies?
For Newsies I auditioned four times over three years. It was something that I really had to work hard for and it taught me a lot about perseverance and patience. It makes being a part of it now even better! I love my job and I’m so happy to be a part of this show!
You play Race and understudy Davey in Newsies. Who are these two newsboys?
I get to play Race every night here at Newsies. He is such an awesome guy. He’s a cigar-smoking dancing newsie who has a lot to say. He’s a big personality and being able to bring him to life every night on stage is so fun!
What about Davey, the role that you understudy? Have you gotten to go on as that character?
Yes, I have been on for him. Davey comes from a different background than most of the guys. He has a little brother and family that he has to support and because of that he is much more serious, but still knows how to have a good time.
Newsies flopped as a movie and yet took off as a musical. What is it that makes the musical work in a way that the film did not?
I think what makes the stage production of Newsies work so well is the fact that it is live. We get to take the best parts of this movie and bring them to life right before the audience’s eyes. They get to connect with these characters on a personal level. We also get to bring the dancing to life every night right in front of the audience.
What was your pre-Newsies life like working out of L.A.?
Los Angeles theater was an awesome community to be a part of. I met so many amazing professionals in the business and it shaped me into the artist I am today.
What was it like performing for 3-D Theatricals?
3-D is an amazing theater to work for; T.J., Gretchen, and Daniel Dawson have done a great job of really opening up their arms and inviting everyone into their family. Doing Hairspray and 9 To 5 with them was so inspiring to be a part of, not to mention they always put on amazing productions.
And Musical Theatre West?
Musical Theatre West was another great experience; I got my Equity card doing the role of Mike in A Chorus Line. Hands down one of the best moments of my life. I am so grateful to everyone in the Los Angeles theater area for believing in me and encouraging me on this journey!
You also did a couple concert staged readings for Musical Theatre Guild. How did putting together a show in a mere twenty-five hours help in your training as a performer?
Musical Theatre Guild puts on staged readings of shows not done very often in the business which they rehearse only a handful of times. In the shows I was a part of, we really tried to push the boundaries of what you can do with a staged reading, including full dance numbers and staged scenes.
And how was that experience for you?
It was amazing working with so many professionals. The process forces you to work fast, focus, and make choices now, because it is such a fast experience. I definitely recommend working for them and just going to see one of their shows. I’ve seen a bunch of their shows and was always blown away with what they do in so little time.
Having now done a couple major national tours back to back, what’s the best (and hardest) part of being on the road?
The best part is definitely visiting awesome cities around the country. I get to experience different cultures, people and walks of life. I love meeting new people and sharing our journeys. The hardest part is missing my family. They’ve gotten to visit me on the road but I always miss them.
Have you thought about life post-Newsies? How do you hope to see your career develop over the next few years?
I am so excited for the future. I have so many ideas and aspirations that I know this career will be a rewarding one for me. I’ve thought about working in other parts of the business, either directing, choreographing or writing even. I just have to keep focused and put in the hard work. I never thought that my career would look anything like this and I feel so blessed. I want to inspire others and show them that with hard work and determination you too can have what you’ve always dreamed of.
Daniel’s Newsies bio:
Tours: Wicked (u/s Boq), Cats (Mungojerrie) Regional: Musical Theatre West, 3-D Theatricals, MUNY. Originally from St. Louis, MO. BFA from Rockford University. Thank you to Jeff, Lou, Telsey, Justin, Craig, BBR, Jodie, Friends and loving Family, especially Mom. @DanyoSwitzer
Newsies plays at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. May 17 through 29. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7:30. Saturdays at 2:00 and 7:30. Sundays at 1:00 and 6:30. Reservations: 714 556-2787
Click here to purchase tickets.