Sometimes it takes just one person to change everything.

ACT I of Benton County has a winning formula for its upcoming summer musical, running August 3 – 13 at the Vinton-Shellsburg High School Auditorium. Start with an actual historic event – in this case, the 1899 newsboy strike in New York City.

Add to this a lively and tuneful musical score, flashy and energetic choreography, and a sweet romantic subplot. Mix all that in with plenty of Disney magic, and you have Disney’s Newsies.  This musical was released for non-professional production just two months ago, and the ACT I will be the first amateur group in this area to present the show.

The story was first a Disney film in 1992, later transformed into a Broadway musical, which opened in New York in 2012. It ran for three years.

This fictionalized version of the newsboy strike centers around seventeen year-old Jack Kelly, an orphan newsboy (or “newsie”) who is the unofficial leader of the lower Manhattan newsies.

The children and teenagers who worked as newsies represented a mix of New York’s underclass that included boys as young as ten, a handful of girls, orphans and immigrants.  Large numbers of them lived on the streets when not selling papers. The newsies worked for pennies a day in order to support themselves or their families.

The conflict begins when New York’s two must powerful publishers, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, raise the price they charge the newsboys. Jack urges his fellow newsies to strike. Things get off to an awkward start, but within a few days the boys have reduced newspaper circulation by two thirds and have brought distribution of papers in the northeastern states to a standstill.

The only journalist willing to write about the strike is a seventeen year-old cub reporter, Katherine Plumber, who hopes to advance her career by championing an important story no one else dares to cover. Katherine comes to realize that Jack is not just a blowhard, and that he deeply concerned for the welfare of the other boys. Gradually, Jack and Katherine fall in love.

But the young reporter has a secret that could ruin everything as the ragtag group of teenagers go up against the two most powerful men in the publishing world.

The production has a large ensemble cast of nearly sixty teen and adult actors.  The six principal roles are played by Casey Funk as Jack Kelly;  Newelle Dalton as Katherine Plumber;  Matt Walston as Davey; Sam Opfer as Les; Jaden Patterson as Crutchie, and Doug Martens as Joseph Pulitzer.

Michala Martin is the music director, Joan Cooling as the choreographer, Steve Arnold is the director, and Monica Funk is the producer and assistant director. Judy Trygstad directs the eight member pit band. The set has been created by Terry Cline, and the costume mistress is Kelsey Franck.

The Disney version of the story takes many liberties with the real. In real life, the strike was led by a small, fourteen year-old son of Italian immigrants who went by the name of Kid Blink. Kid Blink’s powerful oratory (delivered in a thick Brooklyn accent) propelled the strikers, climaxing with five thousand boys shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge for a rally. The strike was much more violent on both sides than portrayed in the Disney version. But despite the differences between the real life narrative and the Disney version, the spirit of the story and the substance of the main events remain the same.

Tickets can be purchased in advance from act1.org; they will also be available at the door. The show, which is suitable for families, runs about two and a half hours with one intermission.

Curtain times are 7:30 pm on Friday and Saturday nights and 2:00 pm for the Sunday matinees.

Disney’s Newsies has a musical score written by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, with the book by Harvey Fierstein. It is based on the Disney film written by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White. It was originally produced on Broadway by Disney Theatrical Productions. It is produced by ACT I through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

See the show program here: newsies_program_072918-2

See more photos HERE.