NEWSIES’ Dillon Klena Constantly Rediscovering His Role as Jack Kelly

Up next for 3-D Theatrical, Tony Award-winning NEWSIES opens May 14, 2022 at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts (with a preview on Friday, May 13th). No stranger to the lead role of Jack Kelly, Dillon Klena reprises his role from two earlier productions.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Dillon!

Thank you for having me!

This isn’t the first time you’ve tackled the lead role of Jack Kelly. You played jack in the 2019 Theater Royale production and the 2018 Moonlight Stage Productions Production. Are you still finding new attributes of Jack to play?

I love playing this role. I find new things about the character and myself every time I play him and that makes things naturally organic, especially when playing alongside different performers. Whenever I revisit a role, and I learned this from college, I always try to rediscover the character rather than recreate it. I look at it through a new lens, and because of going through the pandemic and being a little older, I am seeing Jack from an adult perspective which is refreshing and enriching, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to play him again!

Had you seen a production of Newsies before you were cast in the 2018 production?

This is a funny story. When I was 12 years old, I saw Jeremy Jordan play Jack, in the original Broadway cast. After seeing his performance, which was jaw dropping, I knew that Jack would be a dream role. When I played Jack the first time, I remember our Les was also 12 and after our final performance, he came up to me and said something along the lines of “because I got to see you do it, I would love to play Jack someday .” That was such a beautiful, full circle moment for me, to see the impact that the show has on young adults to their dreams and persevere achieve through the world of the arts. I will never forget that moment.

If you were to submit Jack Kelly on an online dating site, what qualities of his would you list?

Jack is a leader and has a heart for the people he loves and is very loyal to his people and will do what it takes to survive. He is also very artistic and can see the world through an interesting lens. He is brave and loyal and passionate for what he believes in. He has big dreams and aspirations for a new life! I feel like Jack has a lot of attributes that I possess so this is interesting for me to really think about. Ha, ha, ha!

What character flaws would you definitely?

He can sometimes be a little narrow minded and also can seem too hard on himself. I feel like when he needs to be a leader, he has so much confidence, but when he is given the chance to talk about his own self, he becomes more introverted and more humble about his truth he is living.

The role of Jack Kelly requires a triple-threat performer. What did you study first – acting, singing or dancing?

When my brother and sister started performing, my mom was pregnant with me, so I sort of was born into the arts. I did my first musical when I was 3 and honestly I kind of learned how to do all of it at once. Of course, I had singing lessons and stuff, but I definitely found my training through doing shows. However, when I went to college at Cal State Fullerton, I was immersed in acting classes and dance classes and I found what worked and what didn’t. I love to act, and I love going deep into the mind of a character and finding out the psychological aspect of how they live and breathe in the world they are in.

A lot of Newsies choreography involve tap. Were you proficient in tap before being cast? Or did you learn on the job?

Actually, fun fact, Jack doesn’t tap dance in the show. ‘King of New York,’ the tap dance number, is one of the only times where Jack has a break, so I steam a little bit and relax before going back out to ‘Seize the Day’!

Chaz Wolcott recreates Christopher Gattelli’s original Broadway choreography. Did you have to unlearn the choreography from your other two newsies productions for this?

Every production is different, so I am learning new things during this time around. Chaz is amazing and it has been a pleasure to work with him and the team at 3-D!

A number of good concert showcases exist in Los Angeles theater for performers to exercise their singing chops. Which ones have you taken part in?

I have not performed in concert showcases but I have had friends perform in them and they are so wonderful, and I wish there were more opportunities for young talent to showcase their work after college, rather than just audition for shows.

When I interviewed Jonah Platt, he told me he and his brother Ben was close and supportive of each other. Would you say the same applies to you and your brother Derek?

I feel that I am close to all my siblings. We grew up performing together and were known as The Klena Kids! Oh yes, The Klena Kids. We went everywhere together and saw shows. My parents are really supportive of the arts and enriched our minds with live theater any chance we could get. My brother is my main inspiration. Seeing his journey unfold over the past decade and witnessing him achieve his goals is something I am very proud of and something I look up to. When he moved to New York I was in 8th grade so a lot of our time seeing each other has been minimal. Over the pandemic, we went on a road trip together from California to New York, just us and the open road for about 10 days! You have to keep in mind that this was the first time we have spent that amount of time together since he had moved to New York, and it was a blast! We got to know each other as adults, and I feel we are more connected as brothers! I can talk to him about anything. I hope one day I am able to be in a show with him and play alongside him! I feel like we would have a blast! I love my family and without their constant love and support, I wouldn’t be the person or performer I am today.

Is there a role you would love to tackle at your present age?

People are going to laugh when I say this, but I would love to play Peter Parker in Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark! I know, I know, but I saw the show three times when it was on Broadway and who wouldn’t love to be a superhero! Another is JD in Heathers! That has always been a dream role and I would love the opportunity to “Try It” out in the future! Oh, another is Clyde from Bonnie and Clyde! I am drawn to rebels with heart! Pippin, Seymour, Dewey Finn from School of Rock are all roles I would love to play some day!

Is there a role you’d love to tackle when you get much older?

I would love to play the Elephant man! I would also love to play the Phantom one day! Another dream role would be Mrs. Doublefire!

What’s in the near future for Dillon Klena?

There are some amazing things happening and I am excited for the future! Can’t say anything now, but stay tuned! I am very grateful for every opportunity because being in this world right now, you never know when the next chance to perform will be, so I am cherishing every moment I am able to set foot on that stage! Thank you very much for this interview and I hope to see everyone at Newsies running May 13th through May 29th at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts!

Thank you again, Dillon! I look forward to checking out your Jack Kelly.

For tickets to the live performances of Newsies through May 29, 2022; log onto www.3Dtheatricals.org

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