The catchy tunes sung by a crowd of energized teenagers in this year’s Capitol Theatre summer youth theatre production are all about youth empowerment and justice for the underdog.
Set in 1899, Newsies tells the tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newspaper deliverer and leader of a band of teenaged “newsies” in New York.
When newspaper owners raise distribution prices at the deliverers’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions. The Broadway play is based on a 1992 movie that was inspired by a true story.
“The entire play is about young people raising their voices to make change,” says director Heather Shippitt.
She says the parallels to present-day crises will be obvious to the audience.
“It’s a great time to remind young people that they have powerful voices,” Shippitt says, “and also a great time to remind adults that we need to support them to make change.”
The Capitol Theatre’s summer youth production, now in its 35th year, takes a cast of young dancers, singers, and actors and provides them with professional directors, musical directors, choreographers, stage managers, and lighting technicians.
“In essence it’s a professional production,” says Shippit, “but the young people are the cast.”
And it’s a big cast – 35 people — and Shippitt sees the production as a joyful comeback from the limited productions during the pandemic.
The social message is important, she says, but then there is the music.
“Audiences are going to be blown away by the singing. And the tunes are so catchy and beautiful. It’s really an uplifting show.”
One of the songs from the production captures that feeling:
Now is the time to seize the day.
Stare down the odds and seize the day.
Minute by minute, that’s how you win it.
We will find a way.
Let us seize the day!
Musical director Malaika Horswill says she has wanted to stage Newsies since she first saw the movie at age 16. This year’s cast is as excited about the Newsies music as she was then, she says, adding that they all researched the music ahead of time and showed up on the first day of rehearsals knowing every song.
“And they sing them on their lunch breaks, and they sing them for fun. They love it as much as I do. They listened to it and it stuck, because the tunes are catchy and the music is so fun and contagious. You can’t not be humming it after you’ve heard it once.”
Why should people get tickets to Newsies?
“Because they won’t be able to leave in a bad mood,” says Horswill. “And it’s a chance to see young people thriving and flourishing and being amazing, which is just such a treat.”
Newsies runs July 28, 29, and 30 at 7:30 p.m. and July 31 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and are available in person at the Capitol Theatre box office, online at https://tickets.capitoltheatre.ca/, or by phone at (250) 352-6363.