The past six months have been quite the whirlwind for Clay Thomson. In the past six months Clay has closed the first Broadway National Tour of West Side Story, playing A-rab, made his Broadway debut as Spot Conlon in the smash hit Newsies, and is currently a swing at Matilda the Musical, which recently started previews. We recently learned more about this successful young performer.
What experience did you have growing up that made you realize performing is what you wanted to do? I started performing in community theater productions near my home town. I saw a friend as Peter Pan in Peter Pan and was completely mesmerized by the flying and the dancing. I thought it looked like so much fun, and was interested in how it was all put together. I didn’t stop singing the songs and so my parents let me audition for their next show! The rest is history!!
You’ve had quite an exciting few months. Did you ever expect your career to take off this quickly? These past couple of months have been pretty crazy! I consider myself very blessed! I had always dreamed of being on Broadway, and I’ve always worked very hard to get where I am today. I don’t take it for granted at all. I know how many people would kill to be in my shoes some days, so I take every moment in, and always try to stay level headed.
What was it like being part of the West Side Story tour? And how was your experience in Japan? The West Side Story tour was my first professional experience, so that was really exciting! I actually left school to do the show, but I ultimately think I made the right choice. It was the first time I had played a principal in a production so that made it even more exciting!! Japan was amazing!! It was my first time going anywhere overseas. I experienced so many things in that month and I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to experience that at such a young age.
How excited were you when the opportunity presented itself to be part of Newsies? I have wanted Newsies to be turned into a Broadway musical for the longest time, so when I heard it was, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of it!! I auditioned for the run at Paper Mill, but did not get cast. But this made me determined work harder to get a chance to be a part of the show! I re-auditioned for the show when it came to Broadway, and after a little while was offered a role in the show here in NYC! There were a lot of people in the show that I looked up to as performers and it was such a dream come true to get to be a part of it!
What was it like being in a show with such a large fan base like Newsies? The “fansies” are some of the most devoted passionate people in the world. The enthusiasm the fansies have for the show, and its cast members is unreal and I’m so honored I got to experience that!
How is it getting to work with former co-stars in a brand new show? I was actually in the West Side Story tour with Thayne. And then I got to do Newsies with him as well! And now it’s such a treat to get to do the show with Thayne and Ryan. I swear they are two of the kindest, most down to earth people in show business.
What are you most excited for the audience to experience as Matilda starts previews? I can’t give anything about the show away, but the talent in this cast is like no other. The range of things we do during the show is pretty crazy, and everyone goes above and beyond every day! I enjoy going to work every single day!
For those who are fans of the book and the movie, how true does the musical stay to the original story? The creative team really stayed true to Roald Dahl’s story and Quentin Blake’s illustrations. And you’ll definitely catch some of the favorites made popular by the movie! For example, Bruce is still forced to eat the entire chocolate cake, and Amanda Thripp still gets thrown by her pigtails. 🙂
Is it more challenging being part of an original cast of a new show compared to an existing production? I think being a part of an original production and joining an existing company are two entirely different beasts. With starting with the original company, we are constantly changing things in rehearsal, where in an existing production it’s usually learning the show from the show’s dance captain, and everything is already set for the most part. They’re really completely different. And I have enjoyed both processes immensely!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Ha! Well I haven’t had too much spare time lately. I’ve been stuck in the Shubert Theatre, not that I’m saying that as a bad thing at all. But when I do have a little spare time, I love reading. I like taking pictures. And I love hanging with friends!!
What has been your worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap? Thankfully I haven’t had too many terrible mess ups in my career. There was one performance of West Side Story where I fell flat on my butt three times in one dance number. So that was more embarrassing for me rather than a mishap. There was also one show during West Side Story in the scene before the song “Officer Krupke” where it’s just Baby John and A-rab on stage, and we’re scared because Riff just died. (Sorry if I just gave that major plot point away.) But then Officer Krupke comes on stage, and then we sing a song all about him. Well one show, he just didn’t show up on stage. So Baby John and I had to improv an entire scene leading up to the “Officer Krupke” number. It felt like five minutes long until the rest of the Jets came on to the stage to help us. And of course who was in the audience that night?! Alan Menken.. Just my luck!
What is your dream role? My dream role?? I don’t know if I have a single role that I want to play, but Newsies and West Side Story were definitely two of my dream shows!! And ever since Matilda opened at Stratford in London, I couldn’t stop looking at clips on YouTube! I consider myself very blessed with the opportunities that have been presented to me!