Young cast brings energy to ‘Newsies’ musical - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Young cast brings energy to ‘Newsies’ musical

June 13th, 2019 development
Young cast brings energy to ‘Newsies’ musical

Managing Editor

Teens and young adults in Chandler and other parts of the Valley will bring to life a turn-of-the-century story about news boys and girls who fight for their rights in a high-energy musical.

Actor’s Youth Theatre, with a cast of 41 actors ages 13 to 20, will perform in Disney’s “Newsies” June 19-23 at Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway.

The young cast has been dancing, singing and acting out dramatic scenes during rehearsals at The Tuscany Theatre, 861 N. Higley Road in Gilbert, where Actor’s Youth Theatre is based.

“Newsies” is the story of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy who heads a group of teenagers who also sell newspapers to go on strike against unfair conditions in New York City.

Jack rallies them to strike when the titans of publishing raise distribution prices, which hurts the “newsies” who hawk the papers for a living. The musical is based on the 1992 movie and a true story inspired it.

Tracie Jones, executive director of Actor’s Youth Theatre and co-director and co-musical director of “Newsies” said she loves the musical.

“I have loved this show since I was a little girl,” Jones said. “I would sing the stuff over and over. The orchestration’s beautiful, the singing. It’s like a musical theater dream. I love kids. They stand up for themselves and make their own future.”

Jones even took students from a different studio where she used to work to see “Newsies” on Broadway in New York City.

She is proud of the real-life young actors, who live around the Valley including in Chandler, Mesa, Apache Junction and Laveen. Jones cast a few more actors than needed because of their enthusiasm.

“We had so many awesome kids” audition, she said. “I’m so about education. They’re such a great cast of kids. They work so hard. I think it will be interesting because there will be girls in it.”

She said Tempe Arts Center is “such a beautiful theater” and she believes the audience will be blown away when they see the actors on stage.

“They’re just going to be impressed because there are kids ages 13 to 20 and they’re awesome,” Jones said.

Bruce Goolsby is co-director and choreographer for “Newsies” and he also is the co-dance director at Actor’s Youth Theatre. Bailey Gorman is stage manager and lighting designer for “Newsies” and works as Actor’s Youth Theatre operations manager.

CJ O’Hara is the orchestra conductor for “Newsies” and co-music director. A live orchestra with youths and adults will perform at all the shows.

Isabella “Peaches” Lesinski, 14, of Chandler, who will be a freshman at Perry High School in the fall, works as an intern, helping the directors.

The star of the show, Dylan Romero, 20, of Chandler, plays Jack Kelly, and he also loves “Newsies.”

“I love how it tells a story,” Romero said. “It kind of gets a sense of (how) you can make friends everywhere; you can make your own family. There is a lot of dancing and singing.”

A graduate of a high school in Joseph City, he plans to start classes at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in the fall. Romero plans to major in business with a minor in theater and said he would love to be a full-time actor someday.

He described Jack Kelly as someone who “tries to be grisly” but really is soft-hearted. Romero said in the second act, Jack “figures out who he really is” after going through an “inner character struggle.”

“He wears his emotions on his sleeve most of the time,” he said.

Romero performed in two musicals when he was in high school and this is his first musical at Actor’s Youth Theatre.

Gracie Gamble, 15, of Chandler, is enjoying playing Hannah, a secretary; as well as a newsie, a nun and one of “The Bowery Beauties,” who are female dancers.

She will be a sophomore at Williams Field High School in Gilbert in the fall and has performed in many musicals at various theaters but this is her first show at Actor’s Youth Theatre.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “The people are so great. Everyone wants to do ‘Newsies.’ It’s a great show. I like the trueness of it. We’re (doing) the people in the strike justice. I think the score is great. I love the music. I love the costumes.”

Gracie also said she likes how organized things are at the Gilbert theater and she has made many friends there.

“I like how friendly they are and accepting of everyone,” she said. “They’re very open to helping you grow.”

Max Meeker, 14, of Chandler, who will be in ninth grade at Heritage Academy in Mesa, also is having a good time performing in “Newsies.” He plays one of the newsies, Henry.

“I’ve been doing theater for like six years,” Max said. “It gets to be this kind of big family. The actors are really cool.”

He is also a fan of the music in “Newsies.”

“I’ve always liked the songs,” Max said. “The dancing is more of a challenge. I’m more an actor. I just like being able to indulge into a different character.”

Eric O’Dell, 17, of Chandler, who will be a junior at Perry High School in Gilbert in the fall, plays many roles in “Newsies.” He plays Seitz, an editor, as well as Mr. Jacobi, who runs a deli where the newsies hang out; Theodore Roosevelt when he was governor and a goon in a fight scene.

Eric has played prominent politicians before as he took on the role of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in “Annie,” a previous musical.

Eric said he has always liked “Newsies” as it is unusual for having a large male cast, whereas often musicals have more females performing.

“The music is just great,” he said. “The dancing is really high energy. You get lost in the show. It reflects onto what happens in today’s world.”

This is the fourth show Eric has performed in at Actor’s Youth Theatre and he loves being part of it.

“It’s very happy and outgoing,” Eric said. “It’s very inclusive. I love how this theater, they’re very supportive of what I do.”

Zachary Taylor, 14, of Chandler, is also a musical theater veteran, who recently played Shrek in “Shrek The Musical JR” at Payne Junior High School in Queen Creek.

He just finished eighth grade at Payne Junior High and he will be a freshman in the fall at American Leadership Academy in Queen Creek.

Zachary is playing two characters: a “scab,” one of the workers who take over the newsies’ jobs when they go on strike, and Darcy, a character whose father owns the newspaper but who helps Jack.

“This is probably my second favorite” musical, he said. The favorite musical he performed in was “Anything Goes.”

“The dancing’s pretty fun,” in ‘Newsies,’” Zachary said. “It’s a very energetic musical. This is my first performance here and I made a bunch of new friends.”

Isabella, who goes by the nickname “Peaches,” has performed in musicals and likes getting a different perspective now as an intern for “Newsies.”

She will be a freshman at Perry High School in Gilbert in the fall and just finished eighth grade at Casteel High School, which serves students in seventh through 12th grades in Queen Creek.

“I write down blocking,” Isabella said. “Sometimes the director will tell me notes to write down. I’ve been in ten musicals. It’s definitely different. You get close with the cast, too. I love this musical so much. I’m a dancer. ‘Newsies’ has really good dancing.”

“Newsies” will be on stage at 7 p.m. on June 19, at 7 p.m. on June 20; at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on June 21; at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on June 22 and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on June 23 at Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. Information: