Raw talent and sheer exuberance make “Newsies” a play you will want to see. If you have children or grandchildren, this is the ideal place to take them, too.
Forty-two youth in grades third through eighth make an appearance in the production at the Pierson Playhouse. Director Lara Ganz has double and triple cast many of the roles, so that all have a chance to be in the spotlight.
The only problem is that there are several actors that this reviewer particularly enjoyed last Thursday. The voices/singing, acting and dancing were exceptional and far superior to what one might expect from a youth production. But there is no way to give individual actors credit.
The lead, Jack, is played by three different boys: Rhys Grandy, Liam Irving and Callum Ganz – and whoever performed the night CTN went to the show, was amazing.
Taking a small role and stealing the show was Elias Von Oyen as Joseph Pulitzer. (The other cast member playing Pulitzer is Sylvie Levitt, whom I did not get a chance to watch.)
Katherine, played by either Anna Rose Barker, Sage Denham, Geneviere Merz, or Shanti Phillips, was also good.
One starts to understand why Ganz doubles up the roles. With so many talented youth, it does seem fairer to let them all have a turn on center stage.
What is amazing – is the amount of enthusiasm that those young actors put in the supporting roles. At some point, everyone is on stage, just off the stage, in the aisles, and next to the audience, so it’s easy to see close up how much effort they are putting into this production.
“Newsies” is based on the Newsboys strike of 1899 in New York City. Orphans and street kids sold the New York Journal and the New York World. Called newsies, they went on strike on July 20 against Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst and other publishers who tried to take more than their fair share of the kids’ earnings.
The children’s working conditions were terrible. These children did not go to school because they were trying to sell papers on the streets, in brothels, or saloons – the newsies were not reimbursed for any paper left unsold. They had to purchase them before selling.
When publishers wanted to raise the rates charged to children, a newsie leader, Dave Simons, convinced the kids to strike. That action also brought to light the impact of child labor and the poor working conditions.
Twelve cast members, who have now graduated from eighth grade, are performing in in their last TPY show. CTN hopes to see some of them in high school productions in the coming years.
Ganz manages to give each youth a chance to be part of something greater – and succeeds wildly. Orchestrating 42 kids is challenging under any circumstance. Orchestrating 42 youth into a presentable show, daunting. But to orchestrate 42 young actors to present a show like this one—incredible.
Shows will be Thursday, July 21 at 7 p.m., July 22 at 7 p.m., July 23 at 2 and 5 p.m. and July 24 at 2 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit: theatrepalisades.org. General admission is $22, and seniors/students are $17. (A theatre policy requires face masks and showing proof of Covid vaccination.)