Step back into the late 1800s and follow a group of rowdy newspaper delivery boys and their misadventures in New York City as they fight to have a better future.
This month, the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre presents Newsies, a musical comedy/drama based on the 1992 Disney film starring Christian Bale.
“Anyone who grew up in the ’80s like I did will recognize this title,” said Director Allyson Paris.
Newsies tells the true story of the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899. The boys and young men who sell newspapers go on strike after the company raises prices for them, making it even harder for them to make money.
“They fight the good fight against these titans of the newspaper business,” Paris said. “They change the world. They basically started the movements for better child labor laws and better child labor practices in the United States.”
Paris remembers watching the movie as a kid and feeling empowered.
“Young people can make a difference,” Paris said. “I was young, so that was a message I really needed to hear.”
With a 9-year-old son who knows all the songs by heart watching in the audience, Paris hopes other children are inspired by this show as well.
“It’s such a great message for young people to hear, that they have important voices and if they work together for the greater good, they can make stuff happen,” she said.
A total of 250 people auditioned for Newsies and 60 were called back to make the cast of 33. There are 15 newsies, ranging from 14 to 28 years in age, and three are girls.
Paris said some cast members that knew this show was coming to Civic spent the last year taking tap classes and tumbling classes to prepare for all the choreography.
“Newsies is absolutely a dance show,” Paris said.
Erin Kacos-Pott is the choreographer, and said the performers have been working hard to perfect the difficult moves, as well as learning to sing and dance at the same time.
“We have optional conditioning classes prior to rehearsal,” Kacos-Pott said. “We do strength training and cardio, just to try to get their bodies in the best shape we can for the show, because it’s so demanding with the amount of dancing and the difficulty of it.”
Each cast member brings their own unique talent to the table, Kacos-Pott said.
“We have guys that can do impressive flips and tumbling skills, and then we have people who have trained in ballet for years and years, and they can do all the pretty leaps and jumps,” Kacos-Pott said. “We have some amazing tappers that have tapped for years and years and can do that intricate tap work.
“They all contribute something different, but then they all come together to create this ensemble; it’s really neat.”
People of all ages are encouraged to come out to the performances.
“You will hum the shows going home. You’ll want to practice your own back handspring, which I don’t recommend,” Paris said. “I hope people walk away and realize it is important to listen to the young voices who have something to say.”
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
30 Division Ave., Grand Rapids
May 31-June 23, $39+
grct.org, (616) 222-6650