We all have that one musical that's special to us. We can go see a production that got everything wrong and felt like it was produced by a blind ant who speaks only Lebanese and directed by a mute lemur who was drunk and also having a fight with the lighting and sound design, and have nothing but a list of complaints... and still treasure every second. I went to a production of Newsies where it seemed like everything was off and even despite the fact that I almost got my foot amputated by a runaway set piece, I loved it.
However, there is one piece of contention that exists between me and my beloved Newsies. One teensy, tiny detail that always stood in the way of a perfect production. It cropped up when the touring cast was finally announced, and we learned that Sniper was now called Snipes and she would be played by Ginna Claire Mason. That's right, SHE! One of the Newsies was a GIRL! We were all beyond excited- most of the fanbase is female, and we were finally getting representation! In all the rehearsal footage, Ginna Claire had her hair down or in a ponytail and we were excited, because that was what we had signed up for!
And what did Disney give us in return? A split track with three words as a newsie, a short dark wig, and choerography placing her in the back of most scenes, in the hopes we wouldn't notice one of the boys was very feminine. And the production of Newsies I went to- there were certainly Newsies bigger than Les but smaller than Jack who, from the front row, I could see had very delicate features, but were given no lines and hidden away. But why?
There were female newsies. This is a historical fact. And even besides that, the show acknowledges the fact that there were girls who were also caught up in child labor. ("All across this city there are kids- boys and girls- who ought to be out playing.") One of my most vivid memories of the Newsies movie is that in the big strike scene at the end, someone is holding a sign demanding rights for women.
So why is everyone so scared of acknowledging female Newsies? Of giving them dresses and lines? It's estimated that one in every ten newsboys was actually a newsgirl- why not embrace the girls who want to be a part of the show instead of forcing them to represent something they don't have as many ties to? Maybe some productions aren't looking to rock the boat. After all, the generation of the movie didn't grow up with female Newsies, nor did the generation of the musical. But why do we have to let that stop us. After all, as a wise govenor once said, there comes a day when every generation must, at the height of it's power, step aside and invite the young to share in the day.
Why not start now? Face it- in community theatre, you're always going to have more girls auditoning then boys. Might as well lean into it. Some theatres are doing this (like the photo above, of the Marriot Theatre, in Chicago.) and it's not exactly like they're hurting for sales. So again, what's stopping people from embracing female Newsies in all their femininity?
(Photo credit, Liz Lauren.)