By Tom Haraldsen
Any production that promotes the glory days of newspapers, when they were a “must have” for almost everyone, was sure to find favor with me. But that’s not the only reason I enjoyed Hale Centre Theatre’s production of Newsies, which runs through Sept. 1 on the Centre Stage in the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre in Sandy.
For those who don’t know, Newsies was inspired by the true story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City where newsboys led a campaign to change the way they were being compensated by newspapers. After two weeks of being on strike, the young newspaper hawkers successfully increased their pay, while also dramatically increasing newspaper circulation. The story became immortalized in the 1992 Disney film, Newsies, featuring 12 original songs by Alan Menken and J.A.C. Redford. In 2011, the story was adapted to a musical that premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse and made its Broadway debut in 2012, where it ran for more than 1,000 performances and won a Tony Award.
The musical follows Jack Kelly, the charismatic but rebellious newsboy, and his ragged team of ‘newsies’ who sell newspapers on the streets of New York City to make meager ends meet. When newspaper mogul, Joseph Pulitzer, raises prices on his newspaper, the newsboys take matters into their own hands and organize a strike against the newspaper. With the help of a young reporter, Katherine Plumber, the newsboys fight to make their voices heard throughout all of New York City and stand up against injustice.
This musical really centers around Kelly, played on Monday, Wednesday and Friday by Preston Taylor. He handles every aspect of his part excellently—singing, dancing, and of course romancing Katherine, played by Bre Welch. The entire M-W-F ensemble skillfully executes their very athletic and artistic choreography across the Hale stage (compliments to director/choreographer Dave Tinney). The cast also includes Jeremy Egan as Davey; Carter Walker as Crutchie; Cairo McGee at Les, Neal C. Johnson as Joseph Pulitzer, and a great supporting cast of actors and actresses.
As always, part of the dazzle in this and any Hale production is the stage itself, where scenes are magically transformed, new sets raised and lowered, and props skillfully brought on and off without missing a beat. You may not be familiar with the songs of Newsies, but you’ll enjoy their performances. And—newspapers are depicted as being both relevant and important. As they should be!
Performance times are 7:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and matinees Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. No children under the age of five are permitted in the theater. For ticket information call 801-984-9000, go to www.hct.org, or visit the box office at 9900 S. Monroe Street in Sandy. In conjunction with the production, the HCT Applauds honoree for Newsies is Special Olympics of Utah.