“Disney’s Newsies The Musical” is a heartwarming show based on the News Boy Strike of 1899 and the 1992 film. The Broadway musical was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won two—Best Musical Score with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, and Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli. Harvey Fierstein wrote the book based on the film’s screenplay by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White.
…a perfect show for young actors and audiences…
The story follows Jack Kelly (Kyler Neville) and his rag-tag team of friends including Crutchie (Wyatt Unrue), Les Jacobs (Jane Keifer), and David Jacobs (Henry Carter) as they fight to have their voices heard. The conflict begins when the publishing company The World, owned by Joseph Pulitzer (Hadyn Dollery), decides to increase its revenue to compete with the competition. The newsboys (and girls), already struggling, face poverty as the city’s publishers decide to increase revenue by exploiting the children who sell the papers. The kids are aided by up-and-coming reporter Katherine Plumber (Gwendolyn Ihde). Across all the boroughs of New York, the newsies band together to try to create a union. They persevere despite being chased, beaten by cops and thugs, and taken to “The Refuge,” a corrupt juvenile center. Not allowing their voices to be silenced, Jack and his friends find an old printing press and publish their story. Shortly after, crowds gather outside incensed by the cruel treatment of child labor and unfair wages.
Currently at Capital One, this production of “Disney’s Newsies The Musical” is presented by the Reston Community Players (RCP) Apprentice program which consists of high school-aged students. The program gives young artists the opportunity to work in a professional environment. Here, students can receive an education on how to run a show onstage and offstage. The cast, which numbered 25 people, was highlighted perfectly by the production team. Co-directors/choreographers/program founders Alisa Claire and Brian Collier led the cast to utilize clear intention, direction, and bold choices.
A perfect example was Jane Keifer, who had the audience in peals of laughter with her sassy portrayal of Les. Additionally, music director Merissa Driscoll’s work ensured that the cast showcased dazzling harmonies, especially Wyatt Unrue who harmonized beautifully as Crutchie. The team abstained from the typically male-dominated casting and highlighted the various strengths of each student. The fun, intricate dance numbers featured solos for exceptional dancers like Elizabeth Cha and Myiah Miller, while also appealing to the varying levels of skill in their cast. Students who were stronger in acting were able to show their range in multiple parts or experiment with stage combat.
RCP’s program stands out from many others in the DC metro area because of its dedication to education offstage. The apprentice program also features seven technical apprentices who were able to gain firsthand experience working backstage with professional equipment. This program is perfect for any developing theater artist who wants to have a taste of professional theater.
The direction of this show could not have been successful without the help of the creative team. The costume design by Lori Crockett saw the newsies in intentional, matching disarray, representative of their situation. They sported muted reds, deep greens, and light blues with simple plaid patterning, while the upper class was saturated in money greens, blacks, and browns with stripes. The set consisted mainly of blue scaffolding which rolled on and off the black box stage. The scaffolding allowed the directors to create various structural obstacles during chase scenes and sported a black and gold gate for the newsies to protest The World. The dismal, harsh metal of the scaffolding emphasized the lack of safety and warmth these working children faced daily. The blue paint was a bit distracting as it did not match the feel of the world the creative team was building.
It is a perfect show for young actors and audiences who can empathize with the powerlessness of not having a voice in society, as well as the strength and the grit it takes to face the kingpins of the “world”—literally.
Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes with one intermission.
“Newsies” runs through July 17, 2022 at Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons, VA 22102. For tickets and information, click here. NOTE: All patrons must wear masks in the theater in order to attend a performance.