One of the biggest challenges for Marshfield High School’s fall musical, "Newsies" sprouted up last week, but not enough to "stop the presses" completely.
Greg Holtschneider, director of the MHS fall production, said twelve students were quarantined, due to COVID-19, which moved the production date to Dec. 3,4 and 5. The show was originally scheduled to run Nov. 19, 20 and 21.
"All of the tickets will still say Nov. 19, 20 and 21," said Holtschneider. "They will automatically transition over. Audiences who have already paid for their tickets on one of those days will have it transferred over to the new dates. If they scheduled it for a Thursday, Nov. 19, then they’ll have it Thursday, Dec. 4. If they set it for Friday, Nov.20, then it goes to Friday, Dec.5 and so on."
Even with the adjustments, that hasn't stopped the cast and crew from pressing on through the show, which Holtschneider said is the most challenging production he has ever directed.
"It's huge dance numbers," said Holtschneider. "The songs almost never stop. The scenes roll one into the other, so scene changes have been an interesting challenge and just the sheer numbers of working with this many people and keeping them coordinated."
The story of "Newsies" is inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. A group of newsboys band together to stand against two big-time print publishers from labor injustice.
"My great-grandfather was actually a newsie," said Grace Clark, who plays one of the newsboys. "I guess I have that historic connection there. It’s different for me playing a male role and I've asked the guys how to be more 'manly.' When we're in positions, I ask them, 'Does this look manly?' They tell me, 'Well, guys don't stand like that.' They tell me other silly things like, 'smell bad and flex your muscles,' just to make me laugh or get me into my role."
Holtschneider has been working with Kaleb Patterson and Juliana Beatie on the production. Beatie handles the vocals of the performers, while Patterson works on the choreography.
"If you include everything, we have 23 pieces of music," said Beatie. "That isn't 23 singing numbers. It include musical interludes for scene changes."
There are 112 students involved in the production and 63 of them make up the cast. Fifth-grader Dylan Sowers plays Wiesel, who runs the distribution window for the World newspaper. This is the first musical Sowers has done with the Marshfield High School theater department.
“I kind of like playing the ‘mean guy,’” said Sowers. “I get to beat people up and do something out of character for me.”
Carson Pruitt plays Les, the younger brother of Davey, a new newsie in the group. He found out about the fall musical through the sixth-grade choir teacher, Michael Dove.
“I actually watched the ‘Newsies’ on Disney Plus,” said Pruitt. “That’s how I kind of heard about the storyline. It’s pretty interesting.”
While “Newsies” has a majority of male roles, there are female characters in the show. Grace Clark said her character, Katherine Plumber, inspires her because of her independence and strength.
"Katherine is the love interest of Jack Kelly, the leader of the newsies," said Clark. "She's a very powerful feminist role in the play. I feel like she's a lot more powerful than I am, but I also relate to her a lot. She's very independent and doesn't let anyone get to her or tell her what to do. She knows she's a woman and that's a big thing. In this time period, no one thinks she can do anything, but she thinks she prove everybody wrong."
With the seating, Holtschneider said they're only pre-selling 275 seats out of the 800 seats that they have. He added, "When we get close to show that night, if we get our social distancing qualified and we notice there’s still seats available, then we'll sell up to 25 more. That's why we want to encourage people to come in their family groups because they can sit together, as opposed to everyone coming individually. We can’t fit as many because we have to adhere to social distancing."
The production begins 7 p.m. at the Carl and Glessie Young Community Auditorium in Marshfield High School. Masks will be required to enter and cannot be taken off unless social distanced in the seating. Tickets can be ordered through the box office by calling 417-859-2120 (ext. 1728).