Extra! Extra! Newsies Comes to Town

May 24, 2018
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Marcos Santana, second from right, directs an award-winning cast that includes New Jersey native, Jim Schubin, far left, in the lead role of Jack Kelly; James Judy, right, as publisher Joseph Pulitzer, and Lilly Elliot, who plays the feisty female reporter and Jack’s love interest, Katherine Plumber. Photo courtesy APC


By Mary Ann Bourbeau | 

DEAL PARK – “Newsies,” the 2012 Tony Award-winner for Best Original Score and Best Choreography, is coming to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center from June 1-17.

The production is directed and choreographed by Marcos Santana, who performed on Broadway in “On Your Feet,” “Guys and Dolls” and “In the Heights.”

“Newsies” is one of those heart-stopping musicals that explodes with energy and emotion,” said Andrew DePrisco, artistic director of Axelrod PAC. “It’s perfect for the entire family!”

Based on the 1992 movie, Disney’s musical tells the story of how a newly formed union of New York City newsboys in 1899 went on strike for fair wages and better working conditions, and defied the publisher of a prominent New York newspaper. The musical had its world premiere in 2011 at the Paper Mill Playhouse and moved to Broadway the following year, where it received eight Tony Award nominations. Broadway veteran Harvey Fierstein (“La Cage aux Folles,” “Kinky Boots”) wrote the book and Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”) composed the music. Under the musical direction of Andrew Sotomayor, the show features the rousing anthems, “Seize the Day,” “Carrying the Banner” and the showstopping tap number “King of New York.”

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“One reason why I like the show so much is that it’s a real story,” said Santana. “It’s such an important moment in history that happened almost 120 years ago, where these kids had a voice and stopped the newspaper. We’re reliving that today, where kids have a voice about gun control and violence. They walked out of school and marched, and they’re making sure they are heard. It’s the idea of power in unity.”

Santana previously directed and choreographed “Newsies” for the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Florida, for which he was nominated for a Carbonell Award. His friend Luis Salgado, who directed and choreographed “Ragtime” and “In the Heights” at Axelrod, spoke highly of the theater. Santana is excited to make his Axelrod debut.

“I came to see ‘Ragtime’ and I was very impressed at the size and the facility,” he said. “It’s very challenging because it’s a big show, not only musically but scenically.”

Like Salgado, Santana grew up in Puerto Rico, but he didn’t develop an interest in dance as a career until he was 18. “Dance is part of our culture and I danced as a social thing,” Santana said. “When I was 18, a friend was in a contemporary ballet company and invited a bunch of us to go see him. When the show was over, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

He moved to New York, where he became involved in the theater scene. In addition to performing, Santana contributed choreography to the Tony Award-nominated Broadway shows “On Your Feet” and “Rocky the Musical.”  “It was very exciting,” said Santana. “It’s something we do because we love it, but when you get recognition for your hard work, it’s always a good thing. It’s prestigious just to have a nomination.”

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The high-energy “Newsies” production has 26 cast members.

After doing research on the real news strike, Santana was excited to discover that some of the newsies at the time were girls.

“Some of the immigrant families only had daughters and those daughters had to work,” he said. “To find out there were female newsies was really fascinating. That gave me permission to include female figures in a very prominent male ensemble. I love the tone it adds to the show.”

“Newsies” will run for 14 performances from June 1-17. Tickets are $29 to $45 and are available at 732-531-9106 or axelrodartscenter.com.

Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at mbourbeau@tworivertimes.com.

This article was first published in the May 17-24, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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