Disney’s Newsies, which is on a national tour until October of this year, is playing in Costa Mesa with later stops in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Having won Tony awards for Best Score and Best Choreography, Newsies is a fantastic production with athletic acrobatic dancing, catchy songs by Disney’s own Alan Menken, and a captivating story that an audience can invest in. Inspired by the real-life Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 and the 1992 cult film, this Broadway musical tells the story of the youth of New York called “newsies” who take on the newspaper tycoons after suffering an unfair price hike on the papers they buy to sell.
In comes newsie Jack Kelly and reporter Katherine Plumber, played by Joey Barreiro and Morgan Keene respectively, who lead the strike against Joseph Pulitzer of The World. Through Jack’s leadership of the newsies and Katherine’s power of the press, they seek to be treated like legitimate and respectable members of the business because, as Jack says, “Headlines don’t sell papes, newsies sell papes.”
Last week, we sat down with Barreiro and Keene and talked about their experiences being part of a national tour:
DE: Tell us about the characters you play and how you relate to your characters.
MK: I play Katherine Plumber. She’s with all these boys and she’s the main woman really. She’s very strong, quirky, independent, and opinionated. She’s a reporter, which is a very interesting aspect for the time period because usually men got to tell the important stories.
JB: I play Jack Kelly and I relate to Jack in that he’s very moralistic. He’s also very impulsive, which is very different from me. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He says what he feels rather than what he thinks. I’ve really enjoyed playing a character like that.
DE: How was it like working with Chris Gattelli on the choreography?
MK: He’s really great. He’s wonderful. He’s very into detail and wants everything to be perfect and that’s how it should be.
DE: Were there any specific challenges as a performer in navigating the stage?
JB: Yes, getting acclimated to the stairs. Running up and down, and up and down, and up and down. When we were rehearsing in New York, all we had is a room and we had to visualize the towers based on sheets on the floor. It wasn’t until we got to Buffalo where we got to rehearse on set.
MK: It’s a beast for sure, especially in a skirt and heels (laughs). We always have a lot of things go wrong, but we just have to find ways to keep going. There’s been a couple of times in “Something to Believe In”, our duet, where I’ve handed him a letter upside down and he starts reading it. I just couldn’t start laughing the entire number.
JB: It also didn’t help that I was really showing her how hard I was reading the upside-down letter.
DE: How did you handle the physical demands of performing as well as touring?
MK: We have a physical therapist who travels with us on tour. She’ll help anyone who needs it. If there’s something wrong, she’ll fix you right away. She helps us and the boys. Touring, in general, just wears you out. We’re mostly singers and actors on tour and our voices can completely get affected by being on just one flight. We do it all the time.
JB: It’s different from being in New York all the time. Our environment changes every week. I love traveling, but New York is home.
DE: Can you talk about the moment where you realized you wanted to do this as a career?
MK: When I was in freshman year of high school, I was in a show called Happy Days which is based on a TV series, and I was in the middle of one of my songs playing Pinky Tuscadero. I just stood there and there was a moment of silence and I was just like, “I want to do this forever.” I can. I know I can do this forever. I don’t want to do anything else and no one is going to stop me and I made sure that that happened.
JB: I didn’t start acting until college. My senior year of high school, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. And then, I started watching Daniel Day Lewis. I ended up watching his whole filmography that year and I became just obsessed with acting and being able to be different people. I got into a school of musical theatre and that was it.
DE: If you could play any Disney character in a musical, who would it be?
MK: I’ve always wanted to be Belle ever since I was a little girl. My favorite Disney princess is Snow White, but they don’t have a musical. When they do, it would be Snow White.
JB: I would like to play Scar. That would be really fun to play. Scar. Jafar. I would love to play Quasimodo.
DE: What is your favorite number to perform?
JB: “Once and For All.” It’s a really great number where all the boys come together and decide that they’re really going to do it and strike. The lyrics are amazing and I think it’s one of the highlights of the show for the audience.
MK: I agree. Also, it’s not just the boys this time with Jack Kelly. It’s Katherine and her friends that are helping. It’s truly everyone coming together.
Catch Newsies on the stands at Segerstrom Center of the Arts in Costa Mesa through Sunday. Book your tickets here.
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