The 16 Newsies rehearse eight hours a day, six days a week, performing intense, gymnastics-esque dance moves. Photo courtesy of Village Theatre

High-energy dance and the fight to make a difference in Disney’s ‘Newsies’ at Village

Open the gates and seize the day — the Newsies are dancing into Issaquah’s Village Theatre this November.

In other words, get ready for boys in newsboy caps leaping through the air with stacks of newspapers.

The Disney musical, which is based on the historical events surrounding New York City’s Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, gained a cult following with the release of the 1992 film musical, which starred a young Christian Bale. Over the next 20 year, the musical grew big enough to land a two-year run on Broadway and subsequent national tour.

Capturing the spirit of the American dream in the era of the birth of labor unions and workers’ rights movements, the musical follows a group of penniless teenage boys who work as newspaper delivery boys to afford food and board. When Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of The New York World, ups the price of his newspaper to the delivery boys, they organize and form a strike.

With the help of intrepid journalist Katherine Plumber (secretly Pulitzer), who uses the power of the pen to draw attention to the Newsies’ predicament, the workers launch a movement that shows the city that everyone — even those considered to be at the bottom of society — deserves a fair shot.

“At its heart, it’s about a group of kids no one pays attention to — the unheard voice being heard to make change,” said Katy Tabb, the show’s choreographer. It’s a message, Tabb said, that is just as relevant today as in 1899.

For Tabb, the chance to choreograph “Newsies” on Village’s stage is her “10-year-old self’s dream come true.” As a young girl watching the 1992 film, Tabb felt inspired by the Newsies’ determination to join together and make the world a better place. In fact, she was so enthralled that she wanted to become one of the Newsies herself.

“But I couldn’t because I wasn’t a boy,” Tabb laughed. “So I get to live my vicarious ‘Newsies’ dream [through this show].”

It’s a dream that does not come without challenges. Due to the show’s dance-heavy nature, the 16 Newsies — who range in age from 16 to mid 20s — attend eight-hour dance rehearsals six days a week. Throughout their dances, each Newsie is constantly performing high-energy, gymnastics-esque tricks, such as flips, leaps and tumbles. Tabb calls “Newsies” a “‘don’t-try-this-at-home’ kind of show.”

“The choreographic demands of the show are very intense,” Tabb said, likening “Newsies” to other dance-centric musicals such as “42nd Street” and “A Chorus Line.”

“We’re fortunate to have an extremely talented cast,” Tabb said. “The energy in the room is extremely positive — it makes going to rehearsal fun.”

Village conducted a three-month search to find 16 young men who were strong and agile enough to perform the Newsies’ intensely athletic moves. Many of the actors actually have gymnastics backgrounds, Tabb said, which comes in handy for this kind of rigorous dancing. What’s more, all of the Newsies “have to be triple-threats,” Tabb explained — able not only to carry out the dance moves, but to act and sing, including hitting some high tenor notes.

Luckily for Village, Tabb said that she and the artistic team “haven’t found a stopping point of these guys’ energy.” Speaking to the Scene on her one day off that week, Tabb said that she was actually sad to not be at work that day, because the Newsies’ “can-do attitude and spirit are a joy to work with.”

Tabb previously choreographed “Billy Elliot” at Village in 2016, a show that she said left a “pretty instense stamp on my heart,” but she suspects that “Newsies” will be a close tie.

As big of a fan of the film as she is, Tabb said that one of her favorite parts of the stage show is the addition of of Katherine, a character who was originally a man in the film.

“It’s really exciting that one of the key characters is this bada** woman who helps all of the Newsies,” Tabb said. “She is a leading lady who is confident and powerful … before women were even reporters.”

As an investigative journalist in the day when such a career for women was unheard of, Katherine breaks the societal mold to which Victorian women were restricted and uses her writing talents to shed light on the Newsies’ cause, thus helping them to achieve their goals.

“It’s really important to show that women have a voice and have power,” Tabb said. “Without her help, the Newsies may not have been as successful.”

“Newsies” opens at Village Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 9 and runs through the holiday season, closing on New Year’s Eve. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit http://villagetheatre.org/issaquah/newsies.php.

Director Steve Tomkins guides the Newsies at rehearsal two weeks before opening night. Photo courtesy of Village Theatre

Katherine Plumber (secretly Pulitzer) works as a journalist in a day when very few women had careers, and uses the power of the pen to bring awareness to the Newsies’ plight. Photo courtesy of Village Theatre

Photo courtesy of Village Theatre Director Steve Tomkins guides the Newsies at rehearsal two weeks before opening night.

Photo courtesy of Village Theatre Katherine Plumber (secretly Pulitzer) works as a journalist in a day when very few women had careers, and uses the power of the pen to bring awareness to the Newsies’ plight.

More in Life

From left: students Riley Retinger, Abby Smith, Mimmi Hubbard and Sadie Rabinowitz. Photo by Calah Webb
‘It’s one of my favorite places to be’: School of Rock Issaquah gears up for January shows

In January, students will be paying homage to the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Chris Cornell and others.

Embrace the struggle for a complete picture | Health column

A monthly column about mindfulness and general wellbeing.

KCLS continuing to build connections in 2020 | Submitted content

A monthly column about library happenings.

Back row, from left: Eric Vaughn, Lisa Dreher and Hope Maltz, Hideo Fujita, Sheri Campbell, Warren Mainard. Front row, from left to right: Jenny Chang, Kendy Sasaki-Ross, Rob Kamihana and Monika Kannadaguli. Photo courtesy Eastgate Expounders
More than a speaking group: Eastgate Expounders look back at 15 years

Eastgate Expounders is one of many clubs under the overarching Toastmasters International nonprofit.

Photo courtesy of Larry Snyder
                                Larry Snyder collected 4,334 pairs of socks during his fourth annual sock drive in Bellevue.
Answering the call to serve those in need

Fourth Annual Sock Drive donates 4,334 socks to CFH, The Sophia Way and Dignity for the Divas.

Photo by Nityia Photography
Three simple rules for the holiday | Health

A monthly column about mindfulness.

Nancy Kartes and Bill Willard were both original event planners of the garden light show that opened in 1994. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo
Twenty-five years of Garden d’Lights

Garden d’Lights runs through December 31.

Boy Scout Troop 626 kicks off Christmas tree sale

The fundraiser began on Nov. 29 and ends on Dec. 20.

Photo courtesy city of Bellevue
                                Volunteer Rob Polasek at work. The Master Naturalist program currently is accepting applications.
Master Naturalist program connects people to environment, community

The program, which enables community members to work with the parks department, started in 2009.

Photo courtesy of city of Bellevue
                                Photo from evening Cultural Conversations event.
Cultural Conversations program approaching 10th year of bringing women across the Eastside together

For nearly a decade, the program has sought to foster inclusivity and togetherness.

Perfection to depression – Measuring ourselves to death

A monthly column about mindfulness and mental wellbeing.