I had the pleasure last week of interviewing the delightful James Judy from the cast of the Newsies National Tour. Judy is playing the role of Snyder, a despicable low-life running a so-called “refuge” for wayward boys. He also understudies the role of publishing magnate Joseph Pulitzer.

Judy has local ties, as he hails from Yelm, Washington. He began his acting career in Seattle in the early 70’s, alongside such familiar local talents as Jayne Muirhead and Jeff Steitzer.

“I‘m from a musical family and started out as a singer, with piano and other instruments,” he said “That took me to acting. I went to college on a voice scholarship but switched my major as soon as I got there, to theatre. I then studied at the Drama Studio in London. It was a great, 12-month program that gives an encapsulated education of what you’d get at the big schools like RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts]. That was an amazing time, but when I returned to Seattle, the UW wouldn’t transfer the credits I had earned in England, so I earned my Bachelor’s at Evergreen State in Olympia.

“When I moved to Seattle in 1976, I started working professionally with the likes of Lori Larsen, John Procacinno, Jayne Muirhead and Jeff Steitzer. Most of the theatres I worked at in Seattle at that time, like The Cirque Dinner Theatre, and Pioneer Square Theatre (which I did Angry Housewives at later on,) are now sadly gone, but I have been at the Paramount prior to Newsies in road tours of South Pacific, Jekyll and Hyde, and The Scarlett Pimpernel. Otherwise I usually just come back for weddings and funerals. “

James moved to NYC in 1980 with his Actor’s Equity card having been earned in Seattle. There he had the distinction of being the Adult Male Understudy/Replacement in the original company of Into the Woods.

“A wonderful, busy two year run,” he confirmed. “I went on as Cinderella’s Prince/The Wolf, The Baker, The Narrator/Mysterious Man, Cinderella’s Father, and the Steward from 1987-1989. Truly a dream job.”

He’s also had a long association with The Scarlett Pimpernel as Dewhurst (“Both versions of it on Broadway in the 80’s and on tour.”) He appeared in the Menken/Ahrens A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden and Jekyll and Hyde.

“The revival with Constatine Maroulis,” he told me. “It lasted a minute on Broadway but we went out on a lengthy tour first.“

Judy joined Newsies (the stage script adapted from the Disney film by prolific gay actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein) for the National tour as the reprehensible Snyder, who is particularly cruel to the handicapped, orphaned newsie Crutchie.

Crutchie and Jack

Zachary Sale (Crutchie) and Joey Barreiro (Jack) from the North American Tour Company of Disney’s Newsies. Photo by Shane Gutierrez.

“Their altercation in the show is so off-putting as originally written that people thought Snyder had killed Crutchie,” he explained, “so for the tour composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman gave Crutchie a song, Letter from the Refuge, that they had always meant to have in the show, and that did the trick.”

All told, they will have had a nearly two year tour, which has kept Judy from spending as much time as he would like with his life partner Kathy Guida, a now-retired Broadway Wardrobe Supervisor.

“We met on the South Pacific tour just after 9/11,” he said. “We’ve had a long run and we’re still happy!”

Judy and his cast-mates are in Portland this week, and he is looking forward to the Seattle run.

“It will be nice to be back there,” he admitted. “To see family and friends, and for audiences to see the triple-threat talents that play the Newsies. So young, and so amazing. It is a privilege to share the stage with them!”

The Seattle engagement of Disney’s NEWSIES. The Tony® Award-winning production will begin a limited engagement at The Paramount Theatre on Tuesday, April 26 through Sunday, May 1. Tickets start at $30 and are available on-line at tickets.com, by calling 877-STG-4TIX (784-4849), or in person at The Paramount Theatre Box Office (Monday through Friday, 10am to 6pm).