When the titans of industry oppress the kids on the street, it’s time to strike – and also sing and dance, in Running to Places’ (R2P) production of the Broadway hit “Newsies.” The cast’s energy and zeal in this Tony Award-winning musical blockbuster will appeal to the whole family. The show runs Feb. 15-17 at the State Theatre of Ithaca.
The musical is based on the 1992 film, which was inspired by the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. Newspaper hawker Jack Kelly (Ari Cummings) and his fellow homeless “newsies,” including the disabled Crutchie (Riley Kwortnik), struggle to cope when publisher Joseph Pulitzer (Dalton Cornell) increases their cost for the newspapers they sell. Vaudeville theatre owner Medda Larkin (Elbonique Stevenson) lends her support, and the newsies declare a strike against the titans of industry. Sparks fly between reporter Katherine Plumber (Sisi Stallmann) and Jack as she covers the newsies’ struggles. When things go quickly sour, newsie Davey (Jasper Fearon) rallies the crew, but with a violent intervention by the police, the strike and the newsies’ very survival hangs in the balance.
“This is a show we all can relate to,” says Tucker Davis, director and choreographer. “It’s about young people joining together to take action and change their given circumstances by daring to redefine social parameters.”
Davis’ ability to integrate storytelling and dance “unleashes the full potential of the show in a way that’s thrilling,” says Joey Steinhagen, R2P artistic director. “The dancing is fierce, just off the charts. It’s unlike anything we’ve done before.”
The show features popular songs like “King of New York” and “Santa Fe.” “The music for this inspirational story is written to go right to your gut,” says resident music director Jeremy Pletter. “Open the gates and ‘Seize the Day’ and just take on the world.”
The ages of the cast members are similar to those of the children in the story, which gives an authenticity to their characters, especially as many in the cast are themselves youth activists.
Says Cummings: “The message of the show is that the youth in our country can make decisions. The show says sometimes adults have to lay off and see what young people can do.”
In R2P, young people have a chance to do a lot. Under sound designer Jordan Fearon’s mentorship, student crew members have been learning sound design and technique. Pletter’s pit orchestra features student performers, while R2P company member Kobi Rassnick serves as assistant music director and accompanist for rehearsals.
Other members of the design team include assistant choreographer Harmony Malone, set designer Deborah Drew, prop master Janet Olsen and lighting designer Natty Simson.
The cast reflects R2P’s mission to bring youth together from across the region, with newsies Phoenix Jacobson commuting from Athens, Pennsylvania and Kyle Stukey from Elmira.
The show is sponsored by the Inn on Columbia and an anonymous fund at the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, with additional grant support from Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County and season-long support from CSP Management.
The show runs one weekend only: Feb. 15-17, Friday and Saturday at 7 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $15 general admission; students and seniors $12, available on-line at www.runningtoplaces.org and from the State Theatre Box Office, 105 West State St or 607-277-8283.