STANDING TOGETHER AS ONE, the cast of “Newsies” rehearses for a big ensemble number featuring singing, dancing and acrobatics. (Allison Kane Photo)

 


By ALLIE HASTINGS

NORTH READING — It’s time to get out those dancing shoes, as North Reading High School’s Masquers is returning to the stage for its upcoming four-show run of “Newsies.”

The musical version North Reading is producing will remain similar to the 1992 movie story line. Based on the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, this contemporary Disney musical tells the story of Jack Kelly, a rebellious newsboy who dreams of a life as an artist away from the big city. After publishing giant Joseph Pulitzer raises newspaper prices at the newsboys’ expense, Kelly and his fellow newsies take action to protest. With help from the beautiful female reporter Katherine Plumber, all of New York City soon recognizes the power of “the little man.”

Performing Arts Manager and Masquers Director Allison Kane believes that rehearsing for “Newsies” has been an educational experience for the students, as the musical raises awareness on a lot of important issues related to equal rights, equal pay, and the relationship between major corporations and small businesses. Even though the show is set during the rise of Industrial America, the themes and ideas presented in “Newsies” are relevant to modern societal discourses found in the 21st century.

Impressive cast

The high school’s production of “Newsies” boasts an impressive cast list; the male lead of Jack Kelly will be played by Mason Murray, a junior and the current vice president of Masquers, who Kane describes as a “true leader at heart.” The female lead of Katherine Plumber will be played by seasoned performer, senior Katie Leach.

Like Jack Kelly, Murray is someone who exhibits true leadership qualities and serves as a positive role model for others. Similarly, Leach emanates her strong-willed character in that she is paving the way for herself, applying to colleges where she will be able to pursue her dream career in theater and the performing arts after graduation.

Additionally, sophomore Brian Conlon will play Crutchie, Jack Kelly’s best friend, and senior J.J. Pruisken will take on the role of the musical’s antagonist, Joseph Pulitzer, who raises the prices that the newsies must pay to buy newspapers from his distribution centers.

The newsies themselves are comprised of eighth graders and high school students of all grade levels; according to Kane, they are the “backbone” of the show, as Newsies requires a big ensemble to pull off the acrobatic numbers and dance-oriented choreography scenes.

 

NEED A HAND? Brian Conlon ’24 and Mason Murray ’23, portray best friends, Crutchie and Jack Kelly, two of the leading roles in “Newsies” which begins its two-weekend run Dec. 3. (Allison Kane Photo)

 

Live orchestra energizes production

Kane is extremely excited that Masquers’ production of Newsies will be accompanied by a live orchestra, which will breathe life into Disney film composer Alan Menken’s energetic score.

“The music is very infectious – you’ll leave the show humming the tunes,” said Kane.

Marching Band Drum Major Wesley Fisher will also be joining the crew of professionals in the pit to play percussion.

Defying COVID-19

As the pandemic is still a matter of concern, ticket purchasers will be assigned seats, and audience members must wear masks at all times. Concessions will be offered outside during intermission, where individuals will be allowed a short break to take off their face coverings.

Kane is grateful that aside from wearing masks during rehearsals, which has become second nature for the students, everything else has returned to a state of normalcy, with members of tech crew working side-by-side in teams again. During the 2020-21 school year, Masquers managed to put on three productions, but their February 2021 show, “Everybody,” was filmed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“The arts took a really big hit with COVID,” Kane admitted. “We weren’t able to move outside as easily as an athletic team could.”

Even though the past year and a half has been an uphill battle in many regards, Masquers has stood the test of time and will continue to deliver heartwarming performances that community members of all ages can enjoy.

Tickets for “Newsies” are on sale now; families, friends, and relatives are invited to attend what Kane believes might be “the best musical we’ve put on in a decade.”

More about the show

“Newsies” will be performed in the Daniel H. Shay Auditorium at NRHS on Friday, December 3 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, December 4 at 4 p.m., Friday, December 10 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, December 11 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and senior citizens. They can be purchased online at https://www.ticketstage.com/T/NRPA.

The box office is located outside the Performing Arts Center at the end of the main hall known as “Main Street” in the new high school/middle school complex. Those entering from the main rear parking lot near the gymnasium should continue down Main Street past the gym and cafeteria to reach the box office. Those entering from the high school’s front door, where handicap accessible parking will be located, should walk straight in when coming to attend the show.

Parking spots may fill up quickly so audience members are encouraged to arrive early. Additional parking will be made available in the lower lot down the hill. Wheelchair-accessible seating will be offered both up front and in the rear of the theater.

The run time for Masquers’ production of “Newsies” is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission. There will be raffle baskets on display throughout both weekends.

Those who have questions are welcome to contact nrperformingarts@gmail.com, call the Box Office directly at 978-664-7800 x5430, or visit the Masquers’ website at http://masquers.weebly.com/newsies.html.