By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
Extra! Extra! The Oxford High School theater is back in action with the musical “Newsies.”
Originally a 1992 movie musical and later making its Broadway debut in 2012, the Tony winning musical tells the story of newsies in 1890s New York City striking against Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World newspaper.
“‘Newsies’ is kind of a fictional retelling of the 1899 Newsboys Strike, so it is rooted in an actual event in history and actual characters,” Director Krista Price said. “However, as Broadway does, it is embellished a bit. It is really energetic and fun, yet very meaningful … It is great for audiences of all ages.”
While the senior class is not always the deciding factor for how productions are chosen, “Newsies” stuck out as the right production for a class of actors looking to get back on stage.
“We have had a couple of dry years with the pandemic and shows being canceled and kids not being able to do as much theater as they normally do, obviously,” Price said. “We had a group of senior guys and girls that have a lot of heart and a lot of passion, and it’s just a really fun group. We were trying to choose a show that reflected this group of seniors … After being through a few hard years, we wanted to provide something that really reflected the heart of this senior group.”
Not only is it some of the seniors’ first musicals since the pandemic, it is also the first major OHS theater production since Nov. 30 and the school’s reopening. Though there were challenges in getting students comfortable with going back to the high school — let alone performing on stage there — the cast found commonality with the against-all-odds situations their characters go through.
“We found a lot of meaning throughout the process and a lot of the quotations from the show [has helped] us through what we have been going through these last few months,” Price said. “For that first cast meeting I took several quotations from the show and put them on large sticky notes around the room … and asked the kids to find one that they connected with. It was uncanny how many of those questions directly applied to each of the cast members in really meaningful ways and the journey they had to go through to find the courage to step back into the building, to step back into life. We really focused on the themes at the beginning of the process.”
Some of the quotes selected are “We are doing something no one has even tried, and yes we are terrified, but watch what happens” and “Courage does not erase our fears; courage is when we face our fears.”
Looking onward to the show itself, actors are excited about performing and have had fun with the production process.
“I have not played a role like this before,” Chase Williams, who plays Jack Kelly, said. “I have seen the role so much, sometimes when I am talking, I will break into my New York accent on accident.”
The characters tend to be unique among the roles actors have played in the past.
“It has been a really cool, unique experience,” Zoe Oetjens, who plays Katherine Plumber, said. “These are such unique characters and we are both very lucky to get to play such unique, different yet similar characters.”
“Newsies” runs at the OHS theater this week, starting with 7 p.m. shows from the 17th-19th and 2 p.m. shows on the 19th and 20th. Tickets are on sale at www.https://www.showtix4u.com/events/16762.
By Dean Vaglia