Millbrook Playhouse to stage ‘Disney’s Newsies’

MILL HALL — If Millbrook published its own newspaper, tomorrow’s banner headline might read: “Newsies To Dance and Prance On Old Barn Stage.”

Following the resounding success of “Mamma Mia,” Artistic Director David Leidholdt is turning to “Disney’s Newsies: The Musical” as the third Main Stage attraction of Millbrook’s season.

The musical opens with 7:30 p.m. performances tomorrow and Saturday, and on July 17-20, with 2 p.m. shows on Sunday, and July 17 and 21.

Although the 1996 film upon which the show is based was not a box-office success, “Newsies” found new life with additional music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, and book revisions by Harvey Fierstein.

When the revised show transferred to Broadway in 2012, “Newsies” was nominated for eight Tony Awards, winning two for choreography and music.

Set in New York City in 1899, “Newsies” focuses upon newspaper delivery boys, who dare to stand up to corporate owners, who decide to cut costs by charging the “Newsies” an extra dime for every paper bought.

Leading first the protest and eventually the strike is delivery boy Jack, who lives among the Newsies, many of whom are orphans or homeless. Jack’s main nemesis is Joseph Pulitzer, who orders the cost cutting measures, and tries to stifle the “Newsies” strike.

Millbrook’s production benefits greatly from Courtney Laine Self who wears two hats: director and choreographer. “Newsies” is Self’s fourth Main Stage production, having previously served as choreographer in “Fun Home,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Mary Poppins.” To say that “Newsies” is a dance-happy show may be an understatement!

Heading the cast are Christopher Doss as the charismatic leader Jack, and Georgia VanRy as Katherine, the well-to-do and fair-minded cub reporter.

Jack’s gang includes a disabled friend using a crutch — named Crutchie naturally — played by Townsend J. Pass; Mitch Connelly is cast as Davey; and Ayden Mitcheltree as Davey’s younger brother Les.

The “Mamma Mia” cast is well represented in “Newsies.” Alison Fisher (bride-to-be Sophie) is in the ensemble, while Monica Howe (Sophie’s mother) plays Medda, a singer who owns a theater, featuring vaudevillian entertainment.

Even Disney shows need a villain of sorts, with Daniel Walstad (“Mamma Mia”s Harry) playing the scowling Joseph Pulitzer.

Also from “Mamma Mia,” the energetic ensemble includes Tim Garner, Gianina Mugavero, Vanessa Kolbosky and Sam W. Snyder.

Also featured as the hardscrabble bunch are Sammy Schecter, Leon Wellington, Garrett Cunningham, Ever Chvez, Dan Egan, Madi Mecker and Cade Guizar.

After ABBA’s powerhouse musical “Mamma Mia,” Mo Ortbal returns in the same pivotal production position as “Newsies” music director.

Although the Alan Menken score doesn’t have any overly familiar tunes, the often jaunty songs include “Sante Fe,” “Carrying The Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York” and my favorite, “Watch What Happens” (Katherine’s solo).

Millbrook audiences will enjoy and no doubt applaud some of the show’s acrobatic choreography. There’s lots of leaping and somersaults as the “Newsies” dare to protest and strike against the corrupt publishers.

Rated PG or suitable for the entire family, “Newsies” isn’t just a musical for the audience to “Read All About.” With a timeless message, “Newsies” is a rousing musical to see and enjoy!

For more information, call 570-748-8083 or visit www.millbrookplayhouse.org.


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