Theater troupe revives production of ‘Newsies’ after two years

Margaret McCarron
Staff Writer

Two years after originally planned, Disney’s “Newsies” is finally being performed by the Franciscan University Musical Theatre Troupe (FUMTT) on the Franciscan University campus, which revived the show earlier this semester.

In the spring semester of 2020, FUMTT had planned to perform “Newsies” before the COVID-19 pandemic caused all students to return home, said sophomore Caroline Sanborn, president of the theater troupe and producer of the musical. This, and the fact that “Newsies” is Sanborn’s favorite musical, caused the show to make a comeback on campus.

“Not only does the musical send such a good message, but it is a highly popular musical,” Sanborn said.

Set in 1899 in New York City, “Newsies” tells a story of newsboys going on strike for better wages. Led by Jack Kelly, the boys fight some of the biggest newspaper companies in the city.

“It’s a guy-heavy musical, so it’s definitely been a challenge to organize it all,” Sanborn said.

The biggest struggle in pulling this musical off was getting students to commit, she said. With classes, households, sports and other clubs, many students had a hard time deciding if they had enough free time to participate.

“At the beginning, we had a lot of people on the fence about whether or not they wanted to commit, so it’s nice to have an official cast and crew,” said Sanborn.

Luckily, many people were able to commit to give the musical a good-sized cast. Auditions were held Jan. 24-25.

“We only expected about 25 boys to audition, but we had almost 45,” Sanborn said. “Our goal was to have 30, so we were impressed by the numbers.”

Many former cast members from the 2020 show came back, whether to audition or help in other ways.

Auditions included singing a two-minute song of choice a cappella and a dance call. In some parts, looks were considered, but only to a certain extent.

Out of both nights of auditions, Jan. 25 was the busiest.

The dance call was organized by sophomores Gavin Cook and Jill Clark, the choreographers. Everybody who auditioned was required to attend, as “Newsies” is famous for its highly energetic dances.

“I was honestly really impressed with everybody, even those who had never danced before,” Sanborn said.

“To ensure everything goes well, we are going to have practice three times a week. We want to make the schedule around the actors’ schedules to make sure they can attend.” Sanborn said.

The show will be performed in the Gentile Gallery. The musical will not use the stage at the front of the Gallery, but will perform along the wall with the staircase. This is because the set requires scaffolding, and, to accomplish this look, the staircase and second floor of the Gallery will be utilized.

Junior Caleb Rider and senior Patrick Syzman returned from the original cast to play Jack Kelly and Davey, respectively. The other stars include sophomore Mariclare Coffin as Katherine, senior Brett Holler as Crutchie and junior Miguel Daez as Pulitzer. There is one children’s part in the show, and a boy from the Steubenville area was invited to audition for the part.

“Our choreographers are incredible. We have an incredible cast, and I can’t wait to work with them,” Sanborn said.

The cast of “Newsies” currently has around 45 actors and actresses, but the troupe is still looking for a few students to work backstage during the production.

“Newsies” will be directed by alumni Cathleen Sanborn, with Holler as stage manager. “Newsies” will be performed April 21, 23 and 24 in the Gentile Gallery.

For a list of the full cast and rehearsal updates, visit the theater troupe’s Instagram, @fusmusicaltheatre.