NEW YORK (AP) — Fans of the Broadway hit "Newsies" might be forgiven for doing a double take these days.
That's because 17-year-old Jacob and David Guzman, who share the same DNA, are now sharing the stage at the Nederlander Theatre, so rare an event that no one in the theater community believes it has happened before in the modern era.
The identical twins from Brockton, Mass., are spending their senior year of high school in New York doing what they've seemingly always done — dancing and being inseparable.
"We've always been with each other," says David. "We've always had a great time with each other." His brother, who happens to be 21 minutes older, echoes the feeling: "We just enjoy our company together."
The award-winning dancers were toddlers when they got hooked on performing. They have endured bullying, danced in a segment of "Dancing With the Stars" and performed in the Fire Island Dance Festival. The twins now find themselves at a dancer's pinnacle, but they almost walked away when both didn't get roles in "Newsies."
"This doesn't happen," says their proud mom, Karen Guzman, who has moved with the boys to New York, leaving husband, Rick, back in Massachusetts with the couple's two daughters. "It's one of those things you watch movies about."
Over lunch between shows, Jacob and David come across warm and funny, articulate and sweet. When they order lunch, it's an almost identical meal. Jacob asks for a crispy chicken sandwich, a bag of chips and a lime soda.
"I'll have the same thing," David says. Then he adds a salty caramel shake to his order. Jacob is tempted, but declines. "If you get the chocolate shake, I'll drink it," he tells his brother.
'THAT WAS FUN'
The Guzman boys fell into dance at an early age — very early. Their mom remembers taking them to The Gold School dance studio in Brockton at age 2 because her two older daughters — now 22 and 19 — danced there.
The twins would tear around the studio waiting room. "I'd make them wear overalls so that I could hold onto their straps and they wouldn't be able to go too far," their mom says with a laugh.
One day, David, who was running at full speed, leapt into the air and belly-flopped into a glass cabinet. "He bounced right off, fell back, stood up, shook himself off and told Jacob, 'That was fun. You should try it,'" Karen Guzman recalls.
A little while later, the twins walked past an open door and saw a class inside — and they froze. "They just stood there and watched. We all laughed because I don't think I've ever seen them so still, not even sleeping," their mom says.
The next week, it happened again. At home, the boys would mimic the steps they had just seen. The director of the school soon suggested they join a class, and their love affair with dance began.
They endured taunts and teasing, even though they are popular and athletic — both played soccer and tennis and seemed never out of breath. "It's crazy to think about how someone would ridicule you for something you love," Jacob says.
Their onstage talents are as hard to separate as the men themselves. In 2009, Jacob was named America's Teen Male Dancer of the Year. His brother was the runner-up.
"I was so proud. My own brother was the winner," says David.
Jacob had a different reaction: "When I got announced the winner, I was so happy," he says. "But, at the same time, I'm like, 'Wow. My brother just fell short of the prize.'"
The next year, David captured the title, which was handed over by his brother. The next year, Jacob won the prestigious title of America's Male Dancer of the Year.
"I think what's great about having a twin like this is I'm pushing him and he's pushing me, so it's forcing us both to be better," says Jacob. "We get to where we can be the best we can be."
'I'M IN THERE'
Jacob and David auditioned for "Newsies," but there was good news and bad news. The good: One of them made it. The bad: Only one of them made it.
The boys declined to find out who had made the cut.
And they declined the offer.
"Obviously there's going to be a point in time where one of us is going to get a job and one of us is not. So we said, 'You know, let's finish our senior year and wait until we graduate high school and then we can start splitting up,'" says David. "So we actually turned them down the first time, which is crazy to think about: turning down Broadway."
Producers soon called back with word that two spots had opened up.
"Everything panned out perfectly. We thought once we said no it was going to be like, 'That's done with. We'll never hear from them again,'" says Jacob. "But it just happened to work out to our benefit."
The Disney musical is based on the true story of scrappy child newspaper sellers in turn-of-the-century New York who go on strike when the price of papers goes up unfairly. They battle scabs, crooked officials and fearsome strikebreakers carrying metal pipes. The twins jumped aboard last month.
David plays a newsboy called Mush and Jacob plays a scab. Both also sing in the ensemble, no easy feat since they're also dancing to Christopher Gattelli's muscular, Tony Award-winning choreography.
Both carve out time to take their senior classes online and plan to walk with their class this spring for graduation. Then there's college — they'd love to room together — and, hopefully, have a spot in a dance company. Make that two spots.
Neither can brag that he appeared on Broadway first — they're both onstage when the curtain rises. David is listed first in the Playbill, but that doesn't bother Jacob. "I'm in there, so it's good. It doesn't matter where you are," he says, laughing.
Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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