On Friday, Christian Youth Theater North Idaho opens “Newsies,” Disney’s historically inspired musical.
The musical is a classic underdog story about newspapers, children fighting child labor laws and Teddy Roosevelt in his governor days. After its debut on Broadway in 2012, it won two Tony Awards and ran for more than 1,000 performances in New York.
The heart-warming story follows a group of New York paper boys, Davey (Ben Dewitt), Crutchie (Liam Hurst), and Les (Asher Drake), lead by Jack Kelley (Carson Stowell). An ongoing increase in newspaper prices demanded by paper owner Joseph Pulitzer (Joshua Vander Plaats) makes it harder for the boys to earn enough from sales to support themselves. Soon, newsies all over the city start striking to force change, with the help of a concerned reporter, Katherine Plumber (Jacqueline Mallene). Still, they meet seemingly insurmountable resistance from powerful higher-ups and victory is anything but clear until Gov. Roosevelt (Bill Inman) intervenes.
“It’s about standing up for yourself and what you believe in the face of oppression,” said Bliss Lanier, executive director of CYT North Idaho. “There’s a cult following for the show and it’s Disney, so it’s a no-brainer for families wondering whether it’ll be alright to bring kids.”
For artistic director Anna Fanning, the show’s message reflects CYT’s mission. “It is important to stress that this story so greatly reflects one of CYT’s most important operating principles: ‘Do not discourage or discount children because of their youth.’ This true story of perseverance in the face of adversity is not only inspirational, but it’s convicting as well. Youth, you have power. Do not think that just because you are young, that you don’t have a voice,” she said.
Lanier said “Newsies” was a clear choice for the group. “We knew Christian Youth Theaters across the country would be doing ‘Newsies’ so we nabbed it the day after Music Theater International released it.”
She added, “It’s a big singing and dancing show; the kids are doing very well and are all very excited,” Lanier said.
This show marks the first for CYT North Idaho’s new musical director, Jesse Hampsch, a recent conducting school graduate. It’s also the first show with CYT for choreographer Tracy Tortora.