I have always enjoyed Newsies - I saw and loved the show not long after it opened on Broadway, watched the pro-shot at the movie theatre, and wear my hat pretty much every bad hair day. I love the score and characters. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever be cast in the show. First and foremost, I am *not* a dancer. If someone asks me if I’m a triple threat, I say yes – I sing, I act, and I do puppetry. Secondly, there aren’t a ton of female roles in the show unless you gender swap your Newsies (and historically there were newsgirls) – and I’m non-binary femme presenting, so who the heck would I play?
This summer was my last summer participating in Weston Drama Workshop, a youth summer theatre program in Weston, Massachusetts. In my three previous summers with the program I appeared in The Wizard of Oz as a flying monkey and the Oz head puppeteer, Pippin as Otto the Duck’s puppeteer, and Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour as Lily Mortar. This was to be my last summer before aging out of the program, and this season’s shows were to be Cabaret, Newsies, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I immediately knew I wanted to be in Curious, because a. I’m actually on the autism spectrum and would do anything to be Christopher, and b. I cannot dance to save my life, and the two musicals were very dance heavy. Auditions came and went - I only got a callback for Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret, a role I admittedly would love to tackle someday - and when I got the call that I was to be in Newsies as both a Newsie and a Bowery Beauty, I accepted the roles and began preparing for what could be a challenging and fun summer.
If you read my article from earlier in the summer about Crutchie and other disabled characters, you know I was very deep into the dramaturgy of the production. I was also very heartened to know that our director, the wonderful Chris Brindley, and our costume designer, Jana, were completely on board with me playing a non-binary Newsie (potentially the first ever?) in addition to the Bowery Beauty track. This performance track was a lot to handle since I was juggling genders, but through the rehearsal process and tech process leading up to opening, I learned to handle a quick change between a very layered corset and skirt combo to my binder and Newsie garb. I also learned some of the most complicated yet fun choreography I’ll probably ever have to learn. As I mentioned, I’m not a dancer, but I can pick up steps with enough practice. Our choreographer, Emily Craver, made sure I understood all my steps in the numbers I was part of – and gave me the opportunity to be in one of the most difficult but rewarding bits of dance in the whole show, the part of Seize The Day where the newsies spin and jump on actual newspapers that they tear with their dance shoes. (There was a two week period where I was taken out of the number because I had been lightly hit by a car and my arm was too sore to do any vigorous choreography involving arm lifts.)
The two weeks my cast and I performed this show were absolutely unforgettable. Being in a show like Newsies meant our cast became as thick as thieves. I’ve been in many many shows over the course of my life, but I think my Newsies cast was basically a second family for the summer. I loved every single person in our cast and they all delivered terrific performances. The production as a whole turned out superbly professional for youth theatre (the company does many excellent shows each season – this summer’s Curious Incident in the black box was magnificent) and on the night of our final performance, the original screenwriters of the original Newsies movie, Bob Tzudiker and Noni White, came to give us a Q&A and watch our show. It was a truly special way to end the run.
Just a few weeks after our production of Newsies closed, I moved back to New York City to begin preparing for my next school year at Marymount Manhattan. And how did I spend part of my first weekend back? At 54 Below with my editor in chief Molly and fellow board member Gigi at the 5th Annual Newsies Reunion Concert, of course. Seeing Broadway Newsies alums like Ben Fankhauser, Giuseppe Bausilio, Stuart Zagnit, and Kevin Carolan (amongst so many others) singing Alan Menken tunes was the perfect way to cap off my summer as a Newsie. When they got to “Once And For All” as their concert finale, I just had to sing my harmony part from the summer… while crying. Once a Newsie, always a Newsie.
(Photo credit by ASA Photographic.)