Stop Spreading the News

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Pulaski among first to bring ‘Newsies’ to regional audiences

Newsies Mike (Adrian Caylor), Crutchie (Alyssa Bruckert), Davey (Marcus Moss), Jack (Caleb Miller) and Les (T.J. Hock) perform a dance number as they vow to strike against the New York World in a scene from “Newsies.” Pulaski High School is performing the musical for the next two weekends. (Times Herald photo by Lee Pulaski)

Newsie Romeo (Connor Heezen) tries to charm newspaper reporter Katherine (Ava Baenen) in a scene from “Newsies,” but Katherine is having none of it. (Times Herald photo by Lee Pulaski)

Medda Larkin (Jessica Goska) performs a song for the newsies, including, from left, Jack (Caleb Miller) and Davey (Marcus Moss) in the first act of “Newsies.” The musical is not only a first for Pulaski High School, but for most schools as Disney extended performing rights to high schools in 2018. (Times Herald photo by Lee Pulaski)

Newspaper subscribers tend to get irritated when they don’t get the news delivered on time, but imagine that the late deliveries are on purpose.

That scenario is at the center of “Newsies,” a musical being performed by Pulaski High School this weekend and next. The musical is based on the 1992 film, which was based on the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.

The show follows a ragtag band of newspaper delivery boys as they struggle to make a living delivering the news. Many of them are living on the streets, and others are delivering papers to help their families put food on the table. That living is put in jeopardy when Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, hikes the price for the newsies to purchase their papers to sell. After finding that the other papers in the city are planning to follow suit, the newsies, led by Jack Kelly, decide to go on strike.

At first, the strike goes badly, with one of the newsies beaten and taken to the Refuge, a juvenile detention center. Things take another turn when it’s revealed that Jack had previously stolen food and clothing. Despite the efforts of an enterprising young reporter named Katherine, who gets her story about the strike on the front page, things seem bleak until a solution is figured out that will get Gov. Theodore Roosevelt involved.

Until recently, “Newsies” wasn’t available for high school groups to perform, according to director Amy Tubbs. But after the rights were released to high schools in March 2018, Pulaski was among a number of schools, including Green Bay Preble and Appleton North, to select the show and bring the charming tale to northeast Wisconsin audiences.

“We have a lot of great dancers and some really strong actors,” Tubbs said. “Everybody’s super stoked about it.”

The musical went on Broadway in 2012, according to Tubbs, and usually when shows are performing in that venue, they’re not available for community or school theater groups to perform.

“For whatever reason, Disney finally said, ‘OK, high schools can do this now,’” Tubbs said.

To prepare the students for their roles, Tubbs made sure a lot of time was spent on the historical context of the musical and why it was such a gripping and dramatic story for its day. However, the story was nothing new to them, as the movie came out only a few years before they were born.

“We looked at some films, and we got some information about it,” Tubbs said. “The kids, when we started out, I think they knew the show better than anyone, because they grew up with the movie, and then Broadway did a release as a movie a while back. They’ve seen it, and they know it. So when we announced ‘Newsies,’ they were just ecstatic.”

The story is one where the little guys have to fight against the big corporations and their greed, and in true musical fashion, they do it with a song in their hearts.

“Pulitzer and the other publishers realize their profits aren’t where they want them to be, and so they decided that, instead of raising the price of the newspaper for the customers, they were going to charge the newsies more to buy the paper,” Tubbs said. “Basically, the newsies were going to bear the brunt of losing profits, so all of a sudden, it became harder for them to make a living.”

The show has required some additional rehearsals, according to Tubbs, as the newsies perform in quite a few different dance numbers, and they have to sing as they’re spinning around the stage.

“It has been hard to find enough time to work on all the things that they want to do,” said Tubbs, who noted that the three days area schools were closed last week due to the weather necessitated bringing the students in for an additional all-day rehearsal on Sunday.

Tubbs noted that the show is mostly true to script, but Pulaski has added its own flavor to it.

“Some things might look a little different, so it’s not going to be like seeing the same exact show,” Tubbs said, not elaborating on the differences. “I’m sure there are expectations from our audience about seeing certain things.”


WHAT: “Newsies”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Feb. 9 and Feb. 16, 2 p.m. Feb. 10 and Feb. 17

WHERE: Ripley Performing Arts Center, Pulaski High School, 1040 S. St. Augustine St., Pulaski

TICKETS: $8 all seats. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at the Pulaski News at the high school by calling 920-822-6800.