‘Newsies’ Showcases Revere’s Talent
It’s easy to see why “Newsies’” director Lara Ganz took on the challenge of this musical, which was originally a 1992 musical comedy-drama film produced by Disney and based on the New York City newsboys strike of 1899.
Not only does “Newsies” have a serious component about making ethical choices, it also allows for a large cast. Forty-two Paul Revere students were able to be part of the production in the school’s auditorium April 26-28.
The students also learned history through the show. A poster informed the audience: “It was not until 1938 that Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, a law that prohibited the employment of kids younger than 16, and placed limits on the employment of kids between 16 and 18 years old.
“Many people argued that child labor helped children by teaching them a trade. In reality, their jobs kept them from going to school and improving their futures.”
Ganz double cast many of the lead roles, which had to make it more challenging.
Producer and Palisadian Rene Rodman was asked why they took this difficult approach and she responded, “Double casting is more difficult, but this was one of the reasons I wanted to work with Lara. Her top priority was for every child to enjoy and face the challenge of the spotlight.
“She gives every show a tremendous amount of time, effort, and love to empower the kids to do things they never thought possible,” Rodman said. “It shows in the actors’ performances and the fact that so many keep coming back over and over again.”
Many of the students started three years ago in their first show as sixth graders. Carlie Given wrote in her bio that she is performing in her third musical at Revere. She played Link in “Hairspray” and Paulette in “Legally Blonde.”
Others were newcomers like Helena Mack, who wrote that this was her first production at Revere after attending Topanga Elementary where she performed in “Aladdin,” “Shrek,” “Seussical” and “The Lion King.”
At the Sunday matinee, the leads were played by River Tharae (Jack), Nick Sartory (Crutchie), Ginger Simpson (Katherine) and Sam Jacobsen (Davey). All have impressive voices. I can see why Palisades High School’s theater department continues to turn out top-notch musicals, as these talented youths graduate middle school and continue to perform at the next level.
Staging and blocking that many bodies on stage is an incredible feat! The cast radiated with enthusiasm and the performance was enjoyable.
About the only negative is that the show could only play one weekend. I asked Rodman if the spring musical could play two weekends next year, so that if someone wanted to see it after a review, there would be the opportunity. She said they would work on it.
The entire production is conducted as an after-school class through PEP and requires a legion of parent volunteers. In the director’s note, Ganz thanked Hayden Roush (Presbyterian youth minister), Emma Feeheely (choreography), Nathan Heldman (music director), Caitlin Tortorici, Harriet Fraser, Rachel Howe Mixon and Sage Grandy.
She also thanked an additional 19 parents and teachers for their aid. “I am always humbled by and full of gratitude for the level of teamwork required to bring a show to life,” Ganz wrote.
“It was a labor of love for all of us,” said Rodman, whose younger son, Spencer, is a seventh grader at Revere.
The advantage of any show at Revere over PaliHi is the venue. At Revere, the productions are performed in a large auditorium with a proper stage, room for an orchestra and good acoustics. (The reason: the Revere campus was originally going to become a high school, but as the population increased in Pacific Palisades in the 1950s, land was purchased to build PaliHi in Temescal Canyon.) In an old newspaper article, it was noted that if the high school wanted an auditorium, it could use the one at Revere.
Pali’s musicals are done in Mercer Hall, which used to serve as a cafeteria, and is now used as a multi-purpose room.