Carrying the Banner: Civic Theatre’s new adaptation of “Newsies” production provides opportunities, lessons of character


Veronica Teeter

FIGHT CLUB: Michael Geary (right), a freshman playing Elmer in “Newsies,” practices fight choreography. He said this is his first time in a show with adults.

Emily Carlisle

“The woild is yer erster.” This line from the Disney-hit musical “Newsies” is exactly what Civic Theatre lives by this season. “Newsies” is based off a true story of struggle and triumph over oppression and control, and it shows that the underdogs can prevail if they work hard enough and do not quit.

Residents of the Indianapolis area will have the opportunity to see the show like never before next Friday at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre. Civic Theatre is one of the first community theaters around Indiana to get the rights to “Newsies,” which first opened on Broadway on March 24, 2012 and ran for two years.

Sophomore Emily Chrzanowski is to play Les in Civic’s production. She said getting to be in “Newsies” is special for her.

“‘Newsies’ has just released their rights to the show, and a lot of theaters are deciding to jump on the opportunity and have decided to perform it,” Chrzanowski said. “Civic Theatre is an amazing organization and we are really lucky to have this chance.”

Chrzanowski’s character, Les, is traditionally a 9-year-old newsie, a boy who delivers newspapers. However, while casting, the directors at Civic Theatre decided to change the musical to include more female newsies.

The production’s choreographer Anne Beck said it was always their intention to cast females in the traditionally male roles.

“We didn’t want it to be just boys. We ended up having a lot more boys audition than we thought (we would),” Beck said. “I think we originally thought that we would end up with half girls and half boys, but so many boys came out from the community. But, we still wanted it to be a mixed group, so we have four girls that are actually newsies and that play other roles in the show as well.” 

In the original Broadway cast, there were only three females who played minor, traditional female roles. So for Civic Theatre to have a total of seven women in the show, four of whom are playing actual newsies instead of just the three traditional female roles, is a new spin on the musical.

According to Chrzanowski, having the chance to play this unique part is just one of the many aspects she loves about theater.

“Theater has just really helped me open up a lot, and it really just relieves a lot of anxiety that I have from the average school day and from everyday life, really,” she said.  “It’s really great because I’ve gotten to meet some of my best friends through this community theater, and every show I get to be in is an amazing opportunity.”

Freshman Michael Geary, who plays another newsboy, Elmer, in the production, said “Newsies” is a great opportunity and a huge learning experience. Although Geary has been participating in theater for about four years, he said this show is unlike any he has been in before.

Veronica Teeter
Michael Geary (right), a freshman playing Elmer in “Newsies,” practices fight choreography. He said this is his first time in a show with adults.

“It’s kind of been a new experience because I’ve never done a show with adults before,” he said. “It’s usually just been other teenagers, so it’s been kind of fulfilling and a really good time. And, I honestly enjoy it more than doing (shows) with just kids my age because it’s fun to meet new people, and it feels more professional as well.”

Beck said not only is participating in community theater a fun experience, but it also teaches kids how to present themselves in their everyday lives.

Beck said, “I think that it helps them gain confidence, and it helps them gain speaking skills. I know that (for) a lot of kids that I have worked with, their parents always tell me they’re like a completely changed human being, and now they’re completely more outgoing and friendly and personable and can talk in large groups or (the parents) say that their reports at school are getting better.”

Geary said he agrees with Beck and said theater has improved his confidence and speaking skills.

“(Theater has) taught me to be more confident in myself and just to be who I am and show others who I am. (I’ve learned) it’s okay to be myself in front of others. I think that’s the biggest thing—to just have my own image of who I am,” he said.

Geary said the lessons within the history of “Newsies” are important ones to learn.

“No matter who you are, you can make a difference,” Geary said. “If something (does not feel) right to you, you have the power to change that and fix that for yourself and for others, too.”