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Draper Journal

Draper Arts Council’s ‘Newsies’ seizes the day at Draper Amphitheater

May 29, 2019 02:03PM ● By Katherine Weinstein

The cast of “Newsies” in the Draper Arts Council production at Draper Amphitheater. (Photo courtesy Krissa Reinbold/Draper Arts Council)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

“If we stand as one, someday becomes somehow.” This line from the song “Seize the Day” in the musical “Newsies” expresses the message at the heart of the show. 

“I can’t think of another show that’s about unity and the purpose of working together for the greater good,” said Susan DeMill, director and choreographer of the Draper Arts Council production. “Newsies” will be presented June 1–15 at Draper Amphitheater.

“It’s inspired by a true story,” DeMill said. The stage musical version of “Newsies” is based on the 1992 Disney film, which was in turn inspired by the historic Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. 

When newspaper magnates Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst decided to charge newsboys more money to purchase the papers they sold, the “newsies” went on strike and brought New York City to a standstill. The newsies, who were largely comprised of homeless and desperately poor youths, organized and refused to sell the papers owned by Pulitzer and Hearst. The strike ended when the two publishing giants agreed to buy back unsold papers from the newsboys.

In the fictionalized musical, things get even more complicated when Pulitzer’s daughter, Katherine — who aspires to be a reporter herself — falls in love with strike leader Jack Kelly and joins the newsies’ cause.

“The energy and cohesiveness of the group has been fantastic to watch,” said DeMill of the young cast. “They’ve really become a tight-knit group of newsies.”  

Many cast members, as well as the director, are fans of the original film, which starred a young Christian Bale. “‘Newsies’ is a beloved film and it’s even better on stage,” said Brielle Anderson, who plays Katherine Plummer (aka Pulitzer.)  

Greg Dowse, in the role of Jack Kelly, said his favorite part of the show is the song “Santa Fe,” in which Jack sings of the place he’d rather be. “I’ve been waiting to sing that song my whole life, ever since I saw Christian Bale do it in the movie and I danced along in my living room,” he said.  

Dance is a huge part of “Newsies,” and the cast is hard at work learning the routines. For Anderson, the biggest challenge of playing her role is the extensive choreography.  Assistant Producer Krissa Reinbold said that after watching the rehearsals she is most excited to see the cast perform “King of New York.” “It’s a big tap number,” she said. “It is going to be really cool!”

The outdoor ambience of Draper Amphitheater and the way the action and choreography spills out into the audience makes the Draper Arts Council production of “Newsies” unique among other productions of the show in the valley. “What’s fun about the space is that we use the whole amphitheater,” said DeMill. “We create the story right in front of you and immerse the audience in what’s happening.”  

The cast members look forward to transporting audiences to New York City at the turn of the 20th century. “The thing I love about theater is just escaping to another world,” said Dowse. “It allows people to be engaged, even if just for a moment, away from their troubles.”  

Stephen Whitchurch, who plays “bad guy” Joseph Pulitzer, echoed the sentiment.  Whitchurch is sharing the stage with three of his younger children as well as a married daughter and her husband. “I love that I can do it with my kids and share with them that rush, that excitement of making other people feel good,” he said. 

The West Jordan resident explained that he and his family keep coming back to do Draper Arts Council shows because of the community atmosphere. “We come because it’s family,” he said.

Nolan Reinbold, a fourth-grader at Willow Springs Elementary who plays Les Jacobs, said one of the best aspects of performing in live theater is the people he gets to work with. “I like the people that I meet and the friends that I make,” he said. Indeed, the cast and crew have come together for a common cause in this production much like the actual newsies did back in 1899.   

Draper Arts Council will present “Newsies” with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein, at Draper Amphitheater June 1, 3, 7, 8, 10, 14, and 15. Draper Amphitheater is located at 944 Vestry Road in Draper. Tickets are available two weeks prior to the first performance at