Aug 8, 2019
The year is 1899 and the publisher of the New York World, Joseph Pulitzer, raises the price of papers sold to the “newsies” from 50 cent to 60 cents per 100 papers.
Enraged, the news boys go on strike to lower the price back down to 50 cents per 100 papers, and this weekend and next at the Harvester 56 Theater, audiences can watch the gripping Summer Youth Theater production of “Newsies: The Musical,” adapted from the Disney movie and directed by Patrick Burk.
The leads of the show — Carissa Clarcq who plays Katherine Plumber, Chase Froman who plays Jack Kelly and Zack Kilner who plays Davey Jacobs — are all first time performers in the Batavia Players.
Jack Kelly is the leader of the newsies and the best seller, leading them in the strike against Pultizer. Davey Jacobs shows up after his father got injured and lost his job, requiring him and his younger brother, Les, to sell papers. Taken under Jack’s wing, he teaches them about what a strike is. Katherine Plumber is a reporter covering the strike story and Jack’s love interest.
The three actors admitted it was stressful playing such prominent roles for their first show, but it was a dream role. Froman and Kilner hail from Albion and heard about the production and Batavia Players from someone they knew while Clarcq, who absolutely loves Newsies and hails from Lockport, went on the website where productions can buy the rights for shows to reverse search productions in the area doing the show because she wanted to do it so bad.
The supporting cast sees more veteran members of the Batavia Players in Matt Stevens playing Crutchie, Jack’s best friend who walks around with a crutch; Celeste Brownell, who plays Hannah, Pultizer’s secretary, and is part of the ensemble; Isaiah Merrell, who plays Wiesel, the man who sells the newsies the papers “and gets yelled at for everything I do”; and Sam Bowman, who plays Oscar Delancey, who are like bullies for the newsies and “we want to show we have more power over (the newsies) and is part of the ensemble.
Some new things which audiences might find different in the Batavia Player’s rendition of the musical is the larger female cast.
“Typically it is a male show,” said Froman. “Most of our newsies are girls. So they have been practicing speaking like a guy and being like one.”
While the musical is based off a historical event, some historical discrepancies did make its way into the show such as the price of the papers increased from 50 cents to 60 cents not after the Spanish-American War but during it. The strike was a result of the two particular papers not lowering the prices again — The Evening World, whose publisher was Pulitzer, and New York Evening Journal, whose publisher was William Randolph Hearst — which means the newsies who sold the papers would take a loss without the war time news to sell copy. Katherine Plumber is a fictional character made up for the show, but was named for Katherine Ethel who died at the age of 2. Jack Kelly was also a fictional character, drawing together many of the leaders of the actual movement into one character, most notably Kid Blink.
Kilner said what makes Newsies fun is that it is an actual story, so in order to appreciate the story you need to know the history behind it.
“I think it is a really important story because it is about the young and defenseless rising up against a higher power,” Clarcq said. “I think that is a really poignant sort of tale that continues into present day even though it takes place in the 1800s. It’s really interesting and applies to the modern day as well.”
Froman said the story is that of no matter how rough things may seem, it’s important not to give up and Stevens said knowing it comes from a true life story makes him that much more motivated to act with emotion.
“It’s kind of cool this is a story that really happened. It’s something that always didn’t have great promise at times,” Bowman said. “When you went on strike, bad things happened during those strikes. People were hurt during them. The way it is portrayed in the show it brings more of an uplifting aspect to it, especially with the musical numbers.”
“It’s a show about young people having a voice,” Brownell said. “That’s so important, especially now in the world. Giving young people the courage to speak up.”
Newsies will be at the Harvester 56 Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 9-10 and 16-17 as well as 2 p.m. on Aug. 11. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $13 for students and seniors. They can be bought at www.DailyNewsTickets.com or www.BataviaPlayers.org.