‘Newsies’ makes debut as WCHS musical
Published 8:21 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2019
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Warren Central High School will be performing Disney’s “Newsies” beginning on Valentine’s Day.
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Set in New York City, WCHS choral director Eric Johnson said, “The musical is based on the real-life newsboy strike of 1899 and addresses age-old themes of social injustice, exploitative labor practices, and David-versus-Goliath struggles as the young learn to harness their power against a corrupt establishment.”
First released as a musical film in 1992, the show debuted on Broadway in 2012.
“From the first time I watched ‘Newsies,’ I instantly fell in love with the show,” Johnson said. “The music is phenomenal, and the dancing blew me away.”
And because, Johnson said, there is so much dancing in “Newsies” about 70 percent of the cast’s rehearsal time has been spent on teaching, blocking, and cleaning dance numbers.
“Many of our students are not trained dancers, so we’ve approached this as a teaching opportunity. Our students have learned many dance techniques, including jazz, ballet, and tap,” Johnson said, “with Sam Lovorn choreographing much of the show and Genevieve Rushing choreographing our tap numbers.”
“I wanted this choreography to smack the audience with energy right off the back,” Lovorn said. “So I knew it had to be big. I made this choreography challenging and the students rose to the occasion. The kids have followed a rigorous workout and stretching regiment to make sure our leaps are high and that energy carries throughout the show.
“My ultimate goal with so many students having such little dance training was to show these young performers that they are capable of so much more than they realize. I believe that goal has been met,” Lovorn said.
More than 100 students are involved with the WCHS production. And since rehearsals began — which was before the school’s Thanksgiving break — students have put about 200 hours of rehearsal into this production, Johnson said.
Also, a live orchestra will be featured during the performance.
“Having a live orchestra has always been a tradition with Warren Central musicals. We want to showcase all types of fine arts in our productions, and we’re lucky enough to have students who are willing and able to play for us,” Johnson said.
It was announced last February MTI (Music Theatre International, the company that licenses many Broadway musicals) would be releasing rights for the public to perform the show, Johnson said.
“I immediately went to my fellow directors and said, ‘we have to do this show,’ and as soon as the rights were released in March, we received a contract and began immediately planning for this show,” he said.
In fact, Johnson said, WCHS will be the first high school in the state of Mississippi to perform Disney’s “Newsies.”
“We are thrilled about this,” he said.
In addition to directing “Newsies,” Johnson said, he and Lovorn also had the opportunity to be cast in the Mississippi Premiere of Disney’s “Newsies” at Brookhaven Little Theatre, which played this past October.
“Being part of that production allowed us an insider’s point-of-view into the show,” Johnson said.
Cast as leads for the WCHS production include senior Hunter Lee, who plays the role of Jack Kelly; senior Peyton Pierce, who is playing Katherine Plumber; senior Lee Fortner, who is playing Davey Jacobs, and senior Eddie Ross, who plays Joseph Pulitzer.
“Each of these students is incredibly talented, and the directors believe that they truly embody the characters which they are playing,” Johnson said.
In addition to Johnson and Lovorn, Andrea Fairchild, Ashley Trousdale, and Matt Gullett also serve as co- directors for the WCHS production.
“One quote from the show, ‘wrongs will be righted if we’re united,’ perfectly describes the theme of ‘Newsies,’ and I believe that this show presents a message that all people need to hear. If we as a people stand together, we can make a change in this world,” Johnson said.
Performances for the WCHS production of “Newsies” will be offered at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the WCHS auditorium, 1000 Highway 27. Tickets are $10 and $5 for ages 10 and younger and are available at http://our.show/wchsmusical19 or at the door each night of the performance.
“Tickets are selling out fast, so those interested in attending the show are encouraged to reserve tickets online,” Johnson said.