White Pines Collegiate and Vocational School will be presenting its own production of Disney’s Newsies, a Tony-award-winning musical.
It’s the Sault’s first-ever production of the historical musical based on the New York newsboys’ strike of 1899.
It was a time where, in the absence of social services, orphaned and poor children had to sell newspapers to survive. Rising up against the infamous Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World and founder of the famous Pulitzer Prize, the ‘newsies’ fought against Pulitzer’s imposed price hikes by forming their own union and effectively shutting down New York City.
The musical Newsies follows the story of Jack ‘Cowboy’ Kelly, played by senior drama student Tucker Lidstone, as he fights for the rights of newsies and dreams of a better life in New Mexico. As Jack organizes a strike among his fellow news carriers, he falls in love with reporter Katherine Plumber, played by Raedyn Matechuk-Levesque, not realizing that Katherine also happens to be Pulitzer’s daughter. Joseph Pulitzer is played by senior drama student Gabriel Fournier. President Roosevelt, played by Special Education Teacher Scott MacDonald, also makes an appearance.
“It’s been a huge thrill to be part of this production,” MacDonald said.
White Pines Collegiate is currently the only Algoma District School Board high school that offers the arts and culture Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM). It’s the type of specialization that enables students who are passionate about the arts to thrive.
Hollie Filice, Arts and Culture SHSM head and director of Newsies, says that's what makes her school unique.
“White Pines is the place for students who are invested in arts, culture, drama, music and performing,” Filice said in a release.
“It’s a school that really supports those who also want to work behind the scenes in the arts industries, such as in lighting, props, set design, sound, and costume.”
Throughout rehearsals, White Pines SHSM students have played key roles in all departments surrounding the Newsies production.
“It’s that hands-on experience that enables students to get a sense of working within the arts and culture sector,” Filice said.
Students at Grand View Public School were thrilled to be included as part of the production as well.
Filice says the collaboration with the elementary school came about organically.
“We invited the kids at Grand View Public School for a really important scene in the play where all the boroughs of New York are represented. It’s one of the big highlights of our show.”
"With almost 100 students choreographed on-stage for the Newsies strike, audiences will certainly be overwhelmed by the talent present in our city,” the release stated.
Choreographer Jennifer Febbraro explains that young people just need the opportunity to perform.
“I’m really amazed every day by the talent at this school,” Febbraro said.
“You really just have to give students that opportunity to get on stage and then a new side of them begins to develop. You see that confidence grow over the course of a single show and when kids come out the other side of a production like this, they’ve got more faith in themselves as performers and as people.”
Here is some of what the Grand View Public School kids had to say about their involvement:
“I love being part of the play. I’m having the time of my life, just getting the choreography down. This is the first musical I’ve been in, so it’s really exciting,” said Rowan MacLachlan.
“I love singing. I’ve also done a lot of talent shows and class stuff. For talent shows, sometimes I would do singing and dancing. I hope to come to White Pines one day because I know it’s an arts school," said Isabel Booth.
Bea Filice (Hollie Filice’s daughter), said “I love holding the sign. That’s the most fun part. I’m so glad my mom asked me to be in it.”
“I love being in the play. But I was also in one of my mom’s plays before at White Pines, ‘Cases of Mistaken Identity.' I played a trouble-making little girl. It’s super fun to be on stage. The musical is making me want to do more productions and stuff,” said Edie Maclachlan.
Tickets are sold at the door at White Pines, $15 for adults and $10 for kids.
The shows start at 7 p.m. Thursday Dec. 7, Friday Dec. 8 and Saturday Dec. 9.