Through song and dance, “Newsies The Musical” chronicles an 1899 strike (with a creative license) led largely by a scrappy group of immigrant and middle-class boys who peddled newspapers in New York streets. Their actions inspired thousands of “newsies” across the country to follow their lead, protesting unfair wages handed down by media titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.
Unlike its 1992 movie counterpart, “Newsies The Musical” was a Broadway sensation in 2012. However, the movie, which starred a young Christian Bale, earned a cult following through the late 1990s and early 2000s.
North Shore Children’s Theatre Executive Director Nicole Poirier counts herself among the Disney movie’s diehards. She brought the musical to the Marblehead-based company about five years ago and directed an upcoming redux of it that debuts next week.
“I was obsessed with the movie as a kid,” she said. “So now what’s interesting is a bunch of kids who were like little kids, little tiny newsies when we did before came back for our upcoming show.”
“Newsies The Musical” opens at the Peabody Black Box, 22 Foster St., in Peabody on Dec. 15 – 17 at 7 p.m. The show features nearly two dozen young thespians from Marblehead; since September, they have been practicing two times per week. Admission is $15 per person.
“It was a really challenging time to be a kid,” said Poirier. “These kids had a lot of responsibility. They had to care for their family and make money that their families needed.”
She added, “The fact that they were unionizing is kind of amazing.”
Brady Weed and Luke Menslage play the musical’s lead, Jack Kelley, the brave and older newsie who unifies the younger ones alongside Davey, the brains behind executing the citywide strike.
“He is confident yet sensitive, and I like that about him,” said Weed. “I did a lot of work, thinking about, in every scene, where is the character’s head at. I think that’s really going to show in my performance.”
He is unhappy with long working hours and dreams of moving to Santa Fe for a better life.
“People can expect some very heart wrenching performances,” said Priorer. “Our kids really are putting their hearts and souls into telling the story, and making sure that the strife that the newsboys went through is communicated to the audience.”
Several actors outside the Old Town House on Thursday called out “Seize the Day,” “Carrying the Banner” and “King of New York” among their favorite numbers. They have been dubbed the show’s anthems of solidarity.
The young actors said they appreciate the themes scattered throughout the musical: having a positive outlook in life, not just dreaming big but going after one’s dreams, speaking out against injustices and the importance of family. The show’s ability to give voice to those who might often be denied one also resonates with them.
“I think just being able to band together for a cause that you really believe in, fighting against the people who are bigger than you,” said Menslage. “That’s an important message for kids who can often feel voiceless.”
To learn more, visit https://www.nsctheatre.org/events/newsies.