It’s 1899 in New York City, and homeless newsboy Jack Kelly works hard selling papers while dreaming of a better life. But with circulation declining, New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer establishes new rules making it harder for the newsboys to make any money. So the newsies go on strike to fight the unfair conditions; and as their plight grips the city, journalist Katherine helps them face their fears and prepare for the fray.
That’s the premise of “Disney’s Newsies Jr.,” the upcoming show by Not Just Dance. Performances will be at the group’s studio at 14225 Sullyfield Circle, Suite D, in Chantilly.
Show times are Friday, May 19, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, May 20 at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, May 21, at 2 p.m. Ticket information is at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35534/production/1152070.
With a cast and crew of 33, the performers come from several Fairfax County schools and have been rehearsing since September. “Based on a real event, ‘Newsies Jr.’ is a timeless story full of spirit and heart,” said Producer Dawne LeKang. “It’s about kids coming together and being able to influence change – and that’s very inspiring.”
Scenes take place on the streets of New York, inside a theater and in Pulitzer’s office. “Audiences will love the singing and dancing, plus the terrific period costumes, reflecting both the elite and the poor of 1899,” said LeKang. “It’s a dance-heavy show featuring mainly contemporary, upbeat, jazz numbers, and even tap. The music is challenging to sing, but our performers sound amazing, and their dancing is phenomenal. People will just be blown away – and the whole thing is visually appealing.”
Portraying Jack Kelly, the newsies’ leader, is Fairfax High junior Alejandro Cahoon. “He’s 17, charismatic and dynamic, has a bubbly personality and loves to crack jokes,” said Cahoon. “He’s compassionate and is a really good artist who paints in his free time. But he has a tough shell when protecting the newsies – who he considers his family.”
Thoroughly enjoying his role, Cahoon said, “It's challenging to balance all those personality traits to make him likeable to the audience. And he’s also been an outlet for me to improve both my dancing and vocal technique.”
Cahoon said attendees will like “seeing how things are different, compared to now – the clothing styles, the way the streets and buildings looked, and how people spoke, using more formal English.”
Colin Stoffer, a Rocky Run Middle School eighth-grader, plays Joseph Pulitzer. “As owner of The World, he’s king of the New York City newspapers in 1899,” said Stoffer. “He’s a strong business leader who knows what’s good for him and his company. But he’s trapped in his own world and doesn’t realize he’s actually a villain because of the choices he thinks will help his company.
“He’s trying to do his best but doesn’t understand what the newsies are going through. The paperboys back then had to buy the newspapers they were selling; but they couldn’t afford to once Pulitzer raised their price.”
Stoffer likes playing him because “He has a strong moral compass. When he realizes his choices were wrong, he compromises and comes up with a plan to help everyone.” As for the show, Stoffer said, “It’ll inspire audience members to change things in their lives they’re unhappy with.”
Westfield High freshman Mary Campbell portrays Katherine. “She’s a reporter attempting to blaze a path in a profession where women aren’t typically taken seriously,” explained Campbell. “She begins following the newsies’ story, both to prove herself to the world, and because she truly believes in their cause. Unlike most of the characters in ‘Newsies,’ Katherine came from a fairly high-class family, not all of whom approve of her career choices.”
Calling her role both difficult and exhilarating, Campbell said, “Katherine starts out self-conscious and nervous, but becomes more confident in herself as the show progresses. I especially like her determination and willingness to stand up to everyone around her.”
“‘Newsies’ is an empowering story of kids banding together to battle injustice and exploitation,” she continued. “And I think audiences will especially like the choreography, particularly in the ‘King of New York’ number.”
Playing newsboy Davey is South County sophomore Samantha Stephan. “He and his brother Les start selling papers because their father is out of work,” she said. “Davey’s the brains behind the strike, knows what he wants and won’t back down from a challenge. He’s well-spoken, passionate and persuasive.”
“I usually play comedic sidekicks, so I enjoy the challenge of playing someone as brave as Davey who’s a natural leader and inspires others,” said Stephan. “I wish I could be more like him.”
She said “Newsies” became her favorite musical the moment she saw it, And, added Stephan, “I think audiences will love it, too – the music, dancing, costumes and the story about standing up for what you believe in.”