WORTH THE DRIVE: Columbus Children’s Theatre’s ‘Newsies’ feature Wright State connections

Musical based on Disney film continues through Oct. 2 at Southern Theatre.

Columbus Children’s Theatre (CCT) launches its 60th season with the 2012 musical “Newsies,” bolstered by Wright State University connections fueling opportunities for collaboration.

“I think Columbus and Dayton are such different communities when it comes to the artists that live and work in those communities, especially the nature of the organizations operating within them,” explained Susan Pringle, CCT executive director. “It’s always beneficial for us to consider Dayton connections. Because I’ve lived and worked in Ohio for the majority of my career, I’m very proud of the Ohio artists that have stayed and want to make a life for themselves here.”

From 1993 to 2008 Pringle served as executive director of Muse Machine, the nationally celebrated arts education organization serving more than 76,000 students and their teachers each year across the Dayton region. For the sake of supporting artists, she feels there should be a greater willingness among organizations in Columbus and Dayton to be more open and less insular.

“Artists don’t have the luxury of saying they only want to work in a certain city, or they don’t want to drive to Columbus or Dayton,” said Pringle. “So, I think we have a responsibility as producing organizations to explore how we can create more work for artists. We’re not competing for audience members. If we keep the best interest of artists in mind, we can create more employment opportunities for artists.”

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Adapted from the 1992 Disney film and featuring music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, “Newsies” tells the story of newsboy Jack Kelly, leader of a band of teenaged “newsies.” When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across New York City to strike against the unfair conditions.

“The musical takes place in 1899 but the themes are relevant today,” said Wright State musical theatre graduate Hunter Minor, who portrays Jack and memorably starred as Gomez Addams in WSU’s 2019 production of “The Addams Family.” “I feel that Jack is a brilliant representation of my own generation. Working so hard to grow but job conditions, minimum wage, inflation and more all act as an ever-present suppressive force. Purpose, equality and equity are subjects I find myself talking to friends and family about daily. The fact that these characters were dealing with these issues in 1899 and my generation is dealing with them now makes the show’s themes timeless.”

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“Through its captivating storytelling, ‘Newsies’ speaks to historical social justice themes that are still relevant today. We can change the world around us by standing up and speaking up,” echoed Zac DelMonte, CCT artistic director. “To tell this pertinent story, we have formed a cast of incredibly talented youth and adults and put together a top-notch production team.”

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

The production, which opened Sept. 23 and continues through Oct. 2, is directed by Joe Deer, Wright State artistic director and professor in the Department of Theatre Dance and Motion Pictures. Deer has directed and choreographed over 190 productions from off-Broadway to London, regional and university stages.

Equally notable is scenic designer Joe Tilford, an award-winning freelance set designer who headed design programs at Wright State and Northwestern University. Tilford’s work includes designs for Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Goodman Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, Arena Stage, Guthrie Theater and more.

“Working on ‘Newsies’ with so many Wright State connections has been so much fun,” said Deer. “I’ve known Susan Pringle for almost 25 years, since ‘Only Heaven’ at the Dayton Art Institute. It’s great to see how well she’s doing with CCT. And getting to finally work with former Wright State design faculty member Joe Tilford is such a pleasure. He’s something of a legend in our department and I’ve found him to be so talented and a real joyous collaborator. And, of course, working with my current student, Camille Carmichael, who (played) Maggie in ‘Lend Me A Tenor,’ and my former student, Hunter Minor, who (played) Gomez in ‘The Addams Family,’ is just a great homecoming.”

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Wright State design/technology graduate Eric Moore and longtime Human Race Theatre Company lighting designer John Rensel are also associated with the production.

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“Columbus may be a big city, but the bottom line is we’re a very young artistic city,” said Pringle. “We have a lot we can learn from Dayton. I’m always excited to be able to explore more opportunities with Dayton.”

“‘Newsies’ is an incredibly affirmative, high-energy show with so much exciting music and dance, and a great message for a younger audience,” added Deer. “I couldn’t be more pleased to make my debut with Columbus Children’s Theatre directing this show with these people. I hope my Dayton friends will make the drive to see something really special.”

HOW TO GO

What: “Newsies”

When: Through Oct. 2; 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Southern Theatre, 21 E. Main St., Columbus

Cost: $49-$79

Tickets or more info: Call the CAPA Ticket Office at 614-469-0939 or visit https://columbuschildrenstheatre.org/shows/

FYI: Columbus Children’s Theatre reminds patrons the two-act show contains mild action, some language and smoking.

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