They grew up as friends and classmates in the Orange school system. Today each is leaving his mark on stage and on the set of two of the biggest shows in New York City
They grew up as friends and classmates in the Orange school system. Today each is leaving his mark on stage and on the set of two of the biggest shows in New York City.
"I'm The King Of New York" is one of the big numbers in the Broadway musical "Newsies."
For Ben Fankhauser, maybe not king, but you'd understand if the Orange Village native felt like a prince in the Big Apple.
He's starring as newspaper boy Davey in the smash hit these days, but musical theater has been in his blood as far back as he can remember -- when he hung out around Cleveland's Playhouse Square.
"I would see every road show that came through, and I would stay back to talk to the actors and ask them about touring life, about the union, what it was like to be an actor in New York. I think I had a good exposure to it starting in high school," Fankhauser recalls.
In high school the spotlight found him in "Rent" and "Urinetown."
New York, as you can imagine, can be a lonely place but not for a guy like Ben.
He's got company. And not just the company he performs with every night.
Someone a little closer to home. The lead in "Newsies" is Corey Cott who is from, of all places, Chagrin Falls.
"My fellow costar Corey Cott is a Clevelander. Both my roommates are Clevelanders. My cousin, who works for NBC is a Clevelander. We're all over the place and not just on Broadway," Fankhauser says.
In fact when he and Cleveland buddy Corey are belting out tunes in "Newsies," nine blocks away that cousin he mentioned is producing the "Today" show.
"It's this magic feeder you could say, from the Midwest, that sends people to New York City," Adam Miller says.
Miller produces and even sometimes pops up on air.
He oversees the 9 a.m. hour and various segments for the other 22 hours a week the "Today" show is on the air.
But Miller got his start at WKYC.
"I worked on what was at the time in Studio 3 with Hollie Strano and Fred Griffith, which was a great show, and that was my first taste, at a huge level of what it meant to be in broadcasting," Miller recalls.
He leveraged that into a "Today" show internship, and then a job in Studio 1A, first producing for Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira.
His assignments included field producing for the "Today" show anchors at the 2008 Bejing Olympic games and the royal wedding in 2011.
"One of my most memorable days on "Today" was covering the royal wedding in London. I'm a big history buff. That's one of those moments where you are producing Matt and Meredith and you know the whole world is watching. And you have to take a moment and say, 'This is pretty cool! There's the queen. There's Pippa. This is really happening,' " Miller says.
It happened to Miller and his cousin.
When they were kids they both dreamed big in Cleveland, never knowing their rise in their respective fields would allow them to stay so close.
"I am so proud of my cousin. He is so incredibly talented. He always was. We knew it at a very young age," Miller recalls.
"The best thing I got growing up in Cleveland is to have that Midwest mentality," Fankauser says.
And as Playhouse Square lights up Cleveland this week, Clevelanders continue to light up and shine bright on two of the biggest stages the Big Apple has to offer.
Newsies is coming to Cleveland this fall, but it appears Ben will remain on Broadway.
You can watch Adam's work on the "Today" show every weekday morning and watch for him to pop up from time to time.