South Returns to the Stage with “Newsies”

by Ella Hou and Feiya Wang, Features Editor and Features Reporter
photos contributed by Jake McPherson and Julia Nasisi

After two years of holding performances elsewhere due to pandemic restrictions, South Stage returned to the auditorium to put on an electrifying production of “Newsies,” a musical set in 1899 New York City about a group of newsboys, or “newsies,” who go on strike for fair newspaper prices. 

The show ran for three nights — May 19, May 20 and May 21 — and received rave reviews from sold out audiences.

Senior Julia Nasisi, who played Mush, a newsie, said that she was excited to return to the stage for the first time since her freshman year.

“When I was a sophomore in high school, [the musical] just got straight-up canceled, which was really disappointing for a lot of people,” she said. “Last year, it was in the cafeteria, which was still fine, but it definitely felt like something was missing, so I’m really excited to be back in the auditorium.” 

A theater lover from a young age, senior Mason Kitzis, who played Albert, another newsie, said that he was excited to participate in the show, which he had watched on Broadway a decade ago.  

“I’ve been in love with the music [in “Newsies”] since I was a little kid, and the dancing is so fun,” he said.

Although preparing for the production involved a lot of rehearsal time, junior Jake McPherson, who played Nunzio and Teddy Roosevelt, said that all the cast’s hard work paid off.

“Rehearsals [were] amazing,” he said. “They went to 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., which is a very long day, but by the end, everyone [was] super energized and hyped to finally do the thing that we’ve been preparing for for the past two and a half months.”

Kitzis said that the cast worked with a professional musical director and choreographer, who helped push the performance to success.

“We spend a lot of time with Mr. Youngman, the music director. He helps us really perfect our vocal technique and really sound good as a whole . . . Then our choreographer, Alaina, is just amazing. We’re not exactly a dance-first company, but she has really brought us to a point where we feel really confident in our dance,” he said.

Senior Victoria Rivard, who played the role of Katherine, a journalist who helps the newsies, said that the show could not have succeeded without the help of the backstage crew.

“Our tech crew is absolutely amazing. There’s sound, lighting, there’s costume. Then you bring in the props and furniture to help make the set,” she said. “There’s so much that goes into it, and it’s just incredible to watch everyone work so hard to make it work.”

Sophomore Bryan Baumer, who played Jack Kelly, the leader of the newsies, said that the cast dynamic was warm and welcoming. 

“We all inspired each other to work hard, and we did whatever we could to make everybody feel welcome. [Seniors] did a really amazing job of making everybody, like all the underclassmen, feel welcome and supported throughout this process,” he said.

Willa Foster, who played Crutchy, said that despite the usual uncertainties that come with a show’s opening, she was proud of the outcome. 

“With theater in general, the week before the show, it always feels like ‘Oh my god, how are we going to do this? We’re not ready.’ And then it gets pulled together in the end, and it always works out,” she said. “I think it was great. We all had so much fun, and there was just so much energy on the stage.”

Kitzis said that the cast became close-knit through all of their experiences working together. 

“I mean, they’re like my family. Especially the seniors, [since] I’ve spent four years performing in shows with them. I trust these people so much, and it’s such a great and positive community. I’m just so grateful to be part of it.”

Baumer said that while he misses working on “Newsies,” he’s already looking forward to the next production with South Stage. 

“I liked working with everybody and supporting each other,” he said.“I’m definitely going to miss that and that aspect of the community, but I know that that’s not gonna go away for the next show that we do, so I’m excited for the next one.”