Despite being based on events of more than a century ago, Huntsville High School’s latest musical is timely.
“With everything that’s happening in our society right now I think this musical is particularly relevant because it gives perspective on kids rising up for change and standing up against adults,” said Luke Murphy, who plays Jack Kelly in the school’s upcoming production of Newsies the Musical, which features themes of corporate greed, child labour and women’s rights.
Set in New York City in 1899, Newsies tells the story of Jack Kelly and his team of newsboys who make a living selling papers on the streets. When the prices of their papers are hiked due to corporate greed, Jack and his team form a union and organize a strike against the New York World. The musical is based on the original 1992 movie, which was inspired by the real 1899 newsboys’ strike.
The majority of the characters are uneducated street kids, many of them orphans. One exception is Katherine Plumber, played by Briar Summers.
“This play has a really strong female lead [Katherine] and she’s a great role model for women,” said cast member Devan Ferrier. “Back in 1899 women weren’t given job opportunities, especially as a journalist, so this character sort of paved the way for females after her.”
Auditions for Newsies were held in May and roles were announced in June so that rehearsals could get underway at the start of the school year in September. The cast has been rehearsing four times a week since then.
“This is easily one of the most fun, energetic shows we’ve done and there’s a lot of good one-liners that add humour to a musical that talks about a lot of real, important issues,” said Harper Smith, who plays Davey Jacobs.
Teacher Ian McTavish has been directing the HHS musicals over the past 12 years.
“We have a lot of phenomenal singers in this year’s cast that can dance while singing in harmony, which can be tough to do,” he said. “We have so many talented kids. At our past shows people have come up to me and said they expected a high school performance but were blown away by what they saw.”
Murphy added that, “The dancing is quite extensive and challenging in Newsies with a lot of really incredible big numbers so we’re lucky to have some competitive dancers in the cast helping us out.”
Newsies includes a significant number of supporting characters; the HHS production features a cast of 45 students.
The lead roles are played by Luke Murphy (Jack Kelly), Harper Smith (Davey Jacobs), Briar Summers (Katherine Plumber), Millie Cassie-Batchelor (Crutchie), and Oliver Byl (Joseph Pulitzer). Ian McTavish is the director, Louis Tusz is the musical director, Kim Russel-Brooks and Jennifer Creasor are the acting directors, and Lynn Hill and Sam Barber are choreographers.
Newsies the Musical will run November 27 through December 1 at the Algonquin Theatre. Tickets can be purchased here.
You can also follow the HHS cast on Instagram @HHS_Newsies in the lead-up to the big show.
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