An absolutely essential part of running a vital arts organization in a community setting is making sure that the group’s content is fresh and engaging. This is especially true when the group’s stock and trade is musical theatre. In New York and around the world, the art form is growing fast and pushing boundaries, but due to legal constraints and performance royalties it is often difficult to present new work in a timely fashion.
“No one wants to keep coming back to the theatre and seeing the same old shows,” says Sharon Vandrish, a producer Brampton Music Theatre. “We try to diversify our programming so there’s always something new for the audience and the potential company.”
With this in mind, Brampton Music Theatre opens its second of the season, Disney’s Newsies, at the Rose on March 28. It runs over 4 days and closes on the 31st.
“We’re pleased to welcome back Brampton Music Theatre for their production of Newsies next month,” says Jocelyn Johnston, Acting Artistic Director and Theatre Manager at the Rose. “The Rose is proud to be the venue of choice for BMT, and artists and organizations from Brampton and beyond.”
Disney’s Newsies has never been performed in Brampton before, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t heard of it.
The show is a musical adaptation for the stage of the Disney live-action film, Newsies which was based on a dramatization of the real-life Newsboys strike of 1899. With a score by legendary composer Alan Menken, who is known for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and The Beast, and lyrics by Jack Feldman.
The story 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 ensure they are treated fairly. Soon enough, all of New York City soon recognizes the power of the young men and women working together and standing up for themselves.
“It’s really an underdog story about fighting for equality,” says the show’s director Malakai Vierira. “Besides the fact that it’s super-entertaining with a lot of dancing and singing, it has a great message.”
Because the show is based on real events, Vierira wanted to take a deeper dive in to character than you might expect from a musical.
“What I’m trying to highlight are those storylines that are based on real people from around the turn of the century,” says Vierira. “They’re all characters that were part of the Newsboy strike that happened in New York. I want to honour that and what they stood for.”
In this spirit, the company went to the very unusual length of getting special permission to make changes to the script as written.
“We got permission to cross-cast many of the roles with female performers,” he explains. “Since there were also female newsies at the time, we thought it was important to showcase their perspective as well.”
The cast itself includes many perspectives, and many people. There are 52 performers that range in age from 10 to 70 years-old.
“The thing that I love about them is the passion that they bring to each rehearsal,” says Vierira. “They’re bringing it 150 percent!”
“You can’t put on a production at the calibre we do, “ adds Vandrish, “without a great mix of heart, talent, and a desire to put on a stellar performance.”
“Our leads are inspiring too,” says Vierira. “Chris Martel does a beautiful job with Letter from the Refuge and Tyler Winder and Jessica Dominicis have fantastic chemistry as Jack and Catherine.”
One thing that shines through with this company is their dedication to a quality performance. When asked what the audience will think they don’t mince words.
“I like to think that they’ll say, ‘Wow. BMT did it again!’” says Vandrish
“I hope they feel inspired,” says Vierira. “They’re going to love the show.”
BMT’s production of Disney’s Newsies runs at the Rose Theatre from March 28-31.
Tickets are available by calling 905-874-2800 or by clicking here
Photo: The cast of BMT’s Newsies hams it up at rehearsal.