When one thinks of Fendig Summer Theatre’s latest production, a word which may immediately come to mind is “size.” Everything from the cast to the two-story set, to the makeshift clothing lines hanging high over the seats of the audience, evokes a sense of scope.
“Newsies: The Broadway Musical,” inspired by the 1992 movie of the same name, fittingly started out small and slowly grew larger, until it could not be ignored.
Developed out of a love for the film, the musical performances became noticeable enough to convince Disney to finally license the production. This opened the door for Jasper County’s local children’s theatre to seize a big opportunity.
“We’re the first children’s theatre group to get the opportunity to perform this show,” said assistant/technical director Harrison Heinig. “We haven’t cut anything from the show. So we’re doing ... every bit of it.”
Set in New York City as it was in 1899, the musical departs from the film to tell its own story about the newsboy strike which took place that year. These young newsboys, nicknamed “newsies,” are portrayed by a large cast of local children who could literally chew up the scenery when posing together on set.
The production is led by 22-year-old director Blake Rushing, who has worked on the crew of two other Fendig productions, as well as directed productions elsewhere.
Rushing’s last name likely seems very appropriate to anyone who managed to catch a glimpse of him at work during rehearsal. One of his biggest challenges was bringing together the musical’s considerably-large cast, most of whom always have something to worry about at any given moment.
“The entire cast is onstage almost the entire time,” Rushing said shortly before a rehearsal on Tuesday. “It’s very little scene work with one or two people, it’s always a group of at least more than 15. The singing, the songs and the dances are absolutely unique to Fendig, as in they’re very complicated. They’re very hard. But the kids, they pull it off quite beautifully.”
When questioned about the challenges of such a large endeavor, Rushing’s mind always returns to how well the kids around him are pulling it off.
“They listen, and they follow direction, and that’s sometimes really hard to find in kids,” he said. “But these kids, they really do that.”
Fendig Summer Theatre’s production of “Newsies” will run from Thursday, July 12 to Saturday, July 14. Performances start at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of Rensselaer Central High School. Advance tickets are $7 and $10 at the door. Tickets are available from all cast members or from Jordan’s or Brown’s Garden & Flower Shoppe.