NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk High School Drama Department is presenting “Newsies,” a play set in 1899 New York City, with a real-life newsboy strike, replete with a full cast of local students and staff.
It’s essentially about the news industry, albeit at the turn of the 19th Century.
Co-director Charles McAfee, an NHS drama teacher, said the play is a joyful and entertaining musical that captures young people when they learn how to act, with both knowledge of the world and the surrounding areas.
“Rehearsals are going great,” said McAfee, who’s been directing plays for 26 years. “We have a large and experienced staff of adults, over 40 students in the cast and 30 on crew. I’m really happy with the work we are putting on the stage so far and am excited to tie it all together as we move into technical rehearsals.”
The music will be performed by members of Norwalk High School band, led by Chris Rivera, “Newsies” producer and Norwalk High’s band director. Rivera supervises the marching band, three concert bands, two jazz ensembles, two winter guards, indoor percussion ensemble and the pit orchestra.
One of the main attractions, though, is lead actor J’Aire Pearson, an NHS senior playing main character Jack Kelly, who leads the group to form a union and go on strike.
“Jack Kelly has been my dream role for a long time, so I am thrilled to close out my high school experience with a bang,” Pearson said in a statement.
The plot is based around Kelly and his “ragtag team of newsboys,” making a meager living selling newspapers in New York City in the streets, according to a release.
When the prices of newspapers are hiked and the newsies are basically left out to dry, the newsies react accordingly, starting a strike against the greedy executives and publisher, to “open the gates and seize the day.” In addition to Kelly, there’s also an independent, young newspaper reporter named Katherine Plummer who chronicles the scenes.
Although Pearson has been acting since he was a young child, the pandemic happened in an instant, so the spotlight hasn’t been his main focus for some time.
“Newsies is the first show I’ve been a lead in since Covid, so it’s been very different getting back into that ‘leader’ sort of mindset. It’s also the first lead I’ve done where I’m kind of like the glue that keeps the show together. Jack is a very important and difficult role to take on because if his story isn’t portrayed right, the audience will not connect with him correctly. I’ve put a lot of work and effort into the role, so I hope everyone appreciates the way I’ve decided to portray the character.”
Steven Oliveri, co-director and Vocal Director for the Norwalk High production, is working daily with the cast to ensure they will be singing their hearts out in this inspirational musical. This year, Norwalk High added professional choreographer, Maria Cherniske to “Newsies.” In addition, the cast and band has been practicing for three months.
The play is being presented for two weekends:
- Friday, April 28 at 7 p.m.
- Saturday, April 29 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
- Friday, May 5 at 7 p.m.
- Saturday, May 6 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets are on sale at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5741038