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Brody Grant

1883 Magazine takes a stroll through New York with Broadway newcomer Brody Grant who stars as Ponyboy Curtis in the musical adaptation of The Outsiders.

As Ponyboy Curtis in Broadway’s new adaptation of The Outsiders, Brody Grant takes his place onstage even before the lights dim, as audience members are ushered to their seats. From there, Grant is onstage for nearly every minute of the show’s two-plus hour runtime, a remarkable feat made even more impressive by the production’s complex choreography. ”The real trick was finding places in the show to get water,” he says with a laugh, but doesn’t understate the demands of the role. “It is a challenge, but it’s actually a huge gift as an actor. It is what I love to do. I love to sing, I love to act, I love to dance. So getting to do it for like two hours and ten minutes straight, it’s a gift.” 

The rapturous response that The Outsiders has received from Broadway audiences and critics indicates that Grant has risen to the challenge. His performance as Ponyboy earned him a TONY nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, placing him up against theatre veterans including Jonathan Groff and Eddie Redmayne. The Outsiders cast regularly perform to sold-out crowds at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where swarms of young fans regularly amass at the stage door to greet members of the ensemble, and have made appearances on the TODAY show and The Kelly Clarkson Show

“People say to act like you’ve been here before, but the truth is, I have not,” says Grant, who counts Paul Newman, Chadwick Boseman, and River Phoenix among his acting inspirations. “This is all very, very new and fresh to me. It’s all something I’ve dreamed of but never thought would happen, period. It’s just a really special thing.”

S.E. Hinton’s iconic 1967 novel The Outsiders has been a fixture on classroom shelves since its publication, praised for the relatability of its teen characters and the difficult issues they face. Ponyboy, an orphaned teenage greaser in Tulsa, Oklahoma, carries the weight of tragedy and class tensions alongside his gang of friends, as well as his two older brothers.

The story of young outcasts who struggle with their place in the world remains a favorite amongst young readers, including Grant himself. “It’s a very specific part of me, Ponyboy, that feels very real. It’s the same voice that I heard when I first cracked open the book and felt a real kinship with him when I was fourteen.”

Becoming Ponyboy was not without its challenges. Grant tore his ACL during show rehearsals for The Outsiders’ pre-Broadway run at California’s La Jolla Playhouse. “It was the first time in my life that I had ever been physically limited by anything,” he recalls. Recovering from the injury required physical therapy, and called into question whether Grant would be able to join the show for its Broadway run.

Now, however, he credits the moment with further intertwining him with his character. “I think about a scene where Ponyboy is just at the end of his rope,” he says. ”It’s like he’s about ready to call it quits on life. He’s pretty much done, and his brothers and Cherry somehow dig him out of it. But in that time, I had to really rely on the people I cared about, my chosen family, my family.”

The production team behind The Outsiders recently announced that the show would embark on a national tour, a landmark in the musical’s success that ensures even more young audiences will connect with its enduring story.

When asked what advice he might have for future actors cast as Ponyboy, Grant responds, “It’s about doing your thing and shining your light, but also allowing others to shine their light and being a team player. Just supporting and having fun, because it is a challenging role, but it is so much fun.” Meanwhile, he’ll be looking forward to returning to Tulsa onstage each night.  “I am so excited to just keep doing it. It feels like it gets better every night.” 

The Outsiders is on Broadway now.

Interview Juliana Ogarrio
Photography Evan Brown

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