Read all about it! ‘Newsies’ amazes EPAC audience

By on October 23, 2019

My route started at the corner of College Avenue and Lemon Street in Lancaster City, running east to the old West End Market. The newspapers I delivered in the afternoon — when Lancaster had two daily publications — went to pre-subscribed readers. Beyond the regular route payout I received from Lancaster Newspapers, I worked for tips by making sure papers were dry, on-time, and placed where each homeowner preferred their copy of the New Era.

I never had to hard-sell newspapers on the street to put food in my mouth.

The year is 1899 in New York City and theatregoers witnessed that level of impoverishment for paperboys in “Newsies,” which opened at the Sheridan Bigler Theatre Thursday, Oct. 17.

The show opens with a massive, crowd pleasing, smile, inducing musical number as we meet Jack Kelly (Richard Thomas) and his lame friend “Crutchie” (Wes Guidry) as they awake on a city fire escape before their livelihood, the morning newspapers, hit the streets. We quickly learn that being a newsie is a sort of brotherhood and that Jack has dreams of getting far away from the harsh reality of NYC by going to “Santa Fe.” The strong start of this show continues as we meet the rest of the child-workers in “Carrying the Banner.”

We know whose side we are on in this Disney-fied David vs. Goliath tale even before we meet the bigwigs at the World newspaper. When the World decides to raise the cost of the newspapers, Jack and newbie newsie Davey (Corey Buller) rally the kids into forming a union and calling for a strike. This action draws the ire of Pulitzer who incites his lackeys, the police, and scabs, to come down hard on the boys.

The uprising and its fierce quashing draw the attention of news writer Katherine Plumber (Rebekah Hill). Plumber attracts the attention of Jack who immediately falls in love with the young professional — in a day when a professional woman was unheard of. But it turns out Plumber is really the heiress of the Pulitzer name and, despite her genuine feelings toward Jack, she must appease her father. Or, so it seems!

EPAC’s “Newsies” shines through emotionally charged musical numbers like “The World Will Know” and “Seize the Day.” The show captures the essence of an historic drama through dialogue, props, and music; and amazes with physical feats, which pepper nearly flawless choreography fueled by realistic and enthralling emotion — a testament to the dedication of co-director and choreographer Kristin Pontz.

Joining Pontz in the director’s chair is Preston Cuer; I would expect nothing less than an action-packed directorial debut from an actor whose resume in stage combat as a fight captain and fight choreographer is of the highest degree.

The show is impressively cast, especially by tagging Richard Thomas for Jack Kelly. Thomas’ Kelly is wild yet refined, worldly but down to earth. He adds the perfect amount of juxtaposition to his romantic lead without losing credibility as the hero (or more accurately, co-hero) of this story.

In Act 1, when the newsies look for a place to hold their organizational meeting, we are introduced to theatre owner and lady luck herself, Medda Larkin (Yolanda Dwyer). Although only a bit part, Dwyer pours every ounce of her exquisite vocal ability, and undeniable sass, into her role. Her rendition of “That’s Rich” is fantabulous!

Young Zack Sensenig is a true scene stealer as Les, the younger brother of Davey; if my boisterous laughs caused by his perfectly timed wit distracted anyone at the show on opening night, I apologize! Sensenig is joined onstage by a host of other exceptional young thespians, including his brother, Will Sensenig, who plays the smart-alecky Albert.

During opening night it wasn’t just me who thought EPAC’s “Newsies” was a smashing success. The crowd agreed. After an immediate standing ovation, chatter quickly filled the playhouse with viewers overheard calling this “one of the best shows ever seen at EPAC,” or “the most talented cast in years,” and saying “I’ve seen this show before and I don’t remember it being this good.”

I would think a show this praise-worthy would sell out every night! Those who miss it have been warned. Get your tickets as soon as possible at ephrataperformingartscenter.com or by calling the EPAC box office at 717-733-7966 x1. The show closes on Nov. 2.

Michael Upton regularly reviews EPAC productions. He welcomes your comments at somepromcu@gmail.com.

(Photos by Chris Knight/LNP)

One Comment

  1. Gary

    November 10, 2019 at 11:19 am

    My nephew was apart of this. Thanks for sharing.

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