DENMARK, Wis. (WFRV) – Denmark High School students seized the day with their performance of Disney’s Broadway hit Newsies.
The musical tells the true story of the 1899 New York City newsboys strike. When Joseph Pulitzer raises the cost of newspapers, the local newsboys band together to unionize and protest the change.
Local 5 was there at the final performance of the two-week run of the show and had the chance to speak with cast and crew members.
“It’s a really good piece because it means a lot to history and of course it’s not just about the newsies, it’s about all the working kids of the city at the time who were going through these harsh working conditions,” said Bingham Harper, who played the lead role, newsboy Jack Kelly.
“It’s about people just banding together and working towards a cause that directly affects them, and I just think that’s really great,” added Ben Lindsley, who played Joseph Pulitzer.
Newsies is well-known for being a show with a specific style of contemporary dance, and lots of it. Director and Producer Lucas Jordan told Local Five how Denmark’s theatre program took on the challenge of so many big ensemble numbers.
“We decided that this year we wanted to audition a group of specific dancer newsies. We have a few girls in the show that are on the dance team, and they’re the ones that do a lot of the intense dancing, so they were really up to the challenge,” said Jordan. “So with that intense choreo, we were able to add that flair to the show that it’s so known for.”
He explained that although the show was a beast to take on, the kids put in the work to create a stellar final product both on and off stage.
“There are so many songs, there’s so much dancing, there are so many lines, and so many live transitions too. We have such a great crew that practiced so hard to get all these on-stage transitions. We even have some crew members that are in costume because you see them onstage,” Jordan told Local Five. “It’s a lot of work for the kids, it’s a really intense rehearsal process, but I think the product on stage really shows how important that rehearsal process was.”
And with Newsies’ success on Broadway and around the world in recent years, students say stepping into such well-known roles could be intimidating at times.
“Jack Kelly is definitely a very challenging role. Getting all of his mannerisms down, and who he is as a person and his thoughts has just been really difficult,” explained Harper. “Studying Jeremy Jordan, the guy who did it on Broadway originally definitely has helped me.”
Additionally, Denmark is participating in the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s (PAC) Center Stage program this year. Theatre programs are able to get their shows critiqued by a team that gives feedback to directors and students leading up to the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Showcase event next May. Jordan tells Local Five that he’s seen the resources and opportunities provided by the program benefit his students in so many ways.
“I think my favorite thing about the Center Stage program is all the opportunities they offer to the kids. It’s really cool to have the ceremony at the end of the season where kids get recognized for all their hard work,” he explained. “And I also put a lot of value into the feedback that we get from the people that come to see our show from the Center Stage program. So after that they send us all this feedback and I share that feedback with the kids, and they look forward to hearing it too.”
Students shared that being recognized for last year’s production at the Center Stage showcase inspired them to work hard on the show this year, and that they hope to see a repeat of last year’s successes.
“Last year one of our ensemble numbers actually got nominated for Center Stage for best ensemble, so we got to go to the PAC in Appleton and perform,” said Harper. “It was a really cool experience because you could see the whole auditorium and all the work that goes into it, it’s awesome.”
“There aren’t many opportunities where you have two people from one school be nominated for an award as high as that, so I just think that’s really cool and that it really reflects the amount of work that people here put into our shows,” Lindsley added.
Despite the challenges of the show, the best part of the production for Jordan is seeing the students develop a love of musical theatre.
“Seeing that first light bulb go off, especially for as many young kids as we have, and as many new people that we have this year, it was really cool to see them just kind of be like, oh, this is what musical is all about.”
“At the end of the day it’s all worth it, because we’re all a big family, and we all get through it together,” said Lindsley.
Performances were November 4-6 and 11-13 at Denmark High School.