Spread the news! West Point Theatre presents ‘Newsies’ this week

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The cast of “Newsies” rehearses in preparation for Thursday’s opening at Fairview High School. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

WEST POINT, Ala. – This Thursday, April 25, West Point High School Theatre will begin a four-day run of the Disney Broadway production “Newsies” with in-school shows; public shows will begin at 7 p.m. Friday.  Due to the size of the set and limitations of West Point’s auditorium, all performances will be held at Fairview High School.

“Newsies” is loosely based on true historical events of the 1899 New York Newsboys’ Strike, in which child laborers, under the leadership of older teens, went on strike against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, reducing newspaper circulation in New York by two-thirds over a period of two weeks.  The strike was successful in shortening work days and lessening the workload on thousands of kids who made up the papers’ distribution workforces.

Co-directors Jimmy and Kimberly Harbison both pointed to history as a major point in their fondness for “Newsies.”  

When asked what the “wow” factor is for this show, Jimmy Harbison told The Tribune: “The story, which is based on true events, is a wow factor for me.  It is not a fairy tale with fictional characters and fictional events but an actual account from history of what life was like during the early 20th century in America.  This is a major reason we chose to put on this performance, to bring a part of history to the audience as they see some of the hardships their ancestors faced.”

Kimberly Harbison added, “I also feel that the inspirational true story is a wow factor, especially when combined with the theatrical aspects of the show.  This show has a little something for everyone, I believe. I don’t want to give too much away, but the story includes a range of emotions, and I feel that our audience will be easily pulled into the story as we, as a cast and crew, have been.”

The production

Kimberly Harbison talked about putting “Newsies” together.

“We have been preparing for this show since last summer when we were asked to be theater directors for West Point,” she said. “We had been part of last year’s production, both as actors and assistant directors, but this is our first attempt at directing a musical.  The experience has been a great one, especially because we have been able to work with such a wonderfully talented group of students. To be a part of the process, from auditions throughout rehearsals, to watch these students’ talents to grow and develop, is so rewarding.  All along, our main goal for this program has been to have something for these students to be a part of, to showcase the gifts and talents they have been given.

“We have a very diverse group of students in the program who are involved in so many other aspects of the school: musicians, athletes, dancers, scholar’s bowl competitors, etc.  To see them all come together to be a part of this production is a wonderful thing. Our school has been buzzing with excitement about ‘Newsies’ since August.

“We have been blessed to work with several of these talented students over the last couple of years, and we are blessed with many new faces and talents this year as our theater program has grown from about 50 students last year to about 70 students this year.”

Lily Whitesell, who was recently featured in The Tribune for her academic achievements (www.cullmantribune.com/2019/04/10/math-whiz-west-points-lily-whitesell-undefeated-in-7-years-of-math-competitions/), is co-stage manager with Declan Cornett.  

She talked about the technical challenges of “Newsies,” a production bigger than the school’s stage: “Learning all of our positions without having our stage there has been really interesting.  We’ve made lots of notes and, obviously, moved things on, moved things off. But still, not having that proper setup to where we can set it up every single time in the same place has been really difficult on us.”

Whitesell reflected on watching the Harbisons and their cast put on the first production since former theater director Ty Parker’s departure last year, saying, “I’ve always really loved theater, just being a part of it and helping at it.  And they’ve worked so hard for this, it’s just incredible. I think watching them put on their first successful show is going to make it all worth it.”

Senior Joshua Couch, who stars as newsie Jack Kelly, shared, “I’m just happy to have this opportunity to help our school grow, and help our theater program grow.  And I’m just glad that it’s going to bring a little bit of happiness to our community, and it’s just a good thing for us to do.”

Senior Nathanael Ferster, who plays newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer, talked about the challenges he has faced, saying, “My voice has a tendency to crack.  And I’ve been doing a lot of training with these guys, just trying to keep it in check. And so, the biggest challenge for me is getting onstage, being a nervous wreck while trying to sing these songs that are both low and high pitch.”

Ferster enjoys playing the part of the fine and fancy upper-class businessman, saying, “I love wearing the hat!  No, it’s the suit; I love the style. I love being out here and being in a big fantasy world with these guys. It’s just one of my favorite things to do.  This is just fun! It’s fun, it’s wholesome, it’s great. And it’s something other than academics. I love it, I just love it!”

Logan Eady, who plays Race, said, “I really just love getting to sing and dance out here and act with all my friends.  The biggest challenge for me was, I was a really shy person, so it was really hard to do this in front of everybody, but I’m getting over that, so it’s getting better.  God helped me a lot, and my friends were there to support me.”

Newsie Logan Hyde said simply, “I just wanted to be in a play, and dancing around and stuff.”

Cast

Jack Kelly – Erik Griggs, Josh Couch

Katherine Plumber – Sarah Hudson, Anna Armstrong

Davey – Carson Partain, Kell Wilson

Les – Rylee Harbison, Peyton Chamblee

Crutchie – Hayden Chandler, Garrett Willingham

Race – Logan Eady, Miriam Oldacre

Albert – Lyssi Nuss

Specs – CJ Patton, Angela Buckmaster

Finch – Mallory Campbell, Hayden Chandler

Henry – Leila Cherry

Romeo – William Ferster

Elmer – Tamela James

Mush – Lashay Robbins

Buttons – Josh Campbell

JoJo – Gracie Rainwater

Tommy Boy – Jade Burks

Scabs – Matthew Harbison, Thomas Ferster, Peyton Chamblee, Rylee Harbison

Spot Conlon – Keaton Chappell

Darcy – Annalyse Cole, Mallory Campbell

Bill – Tyler White, Whitt Laney

Wiesel – Dathan Campbell, Rylan Jones

Morris Delaney – Samuel Flores

Oscar Delaney – Tariq Nemrouri

Joseph Pulitzer – Nathanael Ferster

Bunsen – Leila Cherry

Hannah – Tekoa Walker, Annalyse Cole

Nunzio – Tyler White, Whitt Laney

Snyder – Jade Burks

Medda Larkin – Presley Palmer, Isabel Newby

Bowery Beauties – Dancers

Stage Manager – Josh Couch, Josh Campbell

Nuns – Abbey Wren, Olivia Wren, Hallie Wheeler, Tekoa Walker, Annalyse Cole

Woman Customer – Debra Jolly

Jacobi – Mrs. Kelly Scott

Policeman – Kolton Sapp

Mayor – William Ferster

Gov. Teddy Roosevelt – Mr. Shane Carter

Additional Newsies –  Logan Hyde, Bryce Harbison, Cole Chamblee, Dylan Davis, Ethan Davis

Dance ensemble members – Alexia Adair, Maddie Davis, Macy Millsap, Ashley Mann, Isabel Newby, Presley Palmer, Allie Sims

Stage and technical crew

Lily Whitesell

David Whitesell

Declan Cornett

Michelle Herrick

Zeta Hood

Payton Overton

Aleah Campbell

Jack Sellers

Ethan Little

Christian Parker

Taylor Jenkins

 

At a glance

West Point High School Theatre production of “Newsies”

  • Public shows Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m.
  • All shows at Fairview High School auditorium, 841 Welcome Road, Cullman
  • Admission $10

 

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com