BY HANNAH LESTER
Opelika Theatre Company is bringing “Newsies” to the stage.
“The show is an actual true story about the newsboys’ strike of 1899 and how the newsboys came together and took down the major news publishers in New York, which were Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst,” said Director of OTC, Marty Moore.
The strike was the result of the price of papers going up, and the newsboys revolted. Come to the Southside Center for the Arts over the next few weekends to see Jack Kelly and his friends (and fellow newsboys) take on Opelika.
Jacob Kroll plays Jack Kelly, the show’s lead. But the show is very family-focused. There is more than one parent who is in the show with their child, along with some siblings who are acting together. Kroll is acting with his brother Josh, who is playing Snyder.
“Jim Collins, who used to own La Cantina, is playing the role of Teddy Roosevelt,” Moore said. “And his son, Jay Collins, is playing Crutchie. Crutchie is a newsie that is crippled by polio and he is kind of like Jack Kelly’s little brother that he never had.”
Doug Bendinger is playing Pulitzer, while his daughter, Dalton Ruthendinger is playing the newsie, Albert.
“It’s kind of a cool situation how community theatre can get families involved and how it makes lasting impressionable memories on people to be able to do something like this with their parents or their siblings,” Moore said.
There are other familiar faces in the show, including Director of Opelika Main Street Ken Ward, who will be playing the mayor.
“There’s a couple of faces that people would definitely want to see in a situation other than what they’re normally used to seeing them in,” Moore said.
Newsies, as a musical, not only requires a lot of singing, but dancing.
“These kids, we have literally taken kids that have had no dance training and we’ve literally taught them how to flip, how to do special effect tricks, they had never had a pair of tap shoes on until Jan. 10,” she said.
The students who participate in OTC’s classes all took up an interest in tap dancing and began classes together in January.
“When we started the classes, the musical theatre, classes, it all happened after Descendants last year,” Moore said. “And the kids all loved Descendants so much because of the dancing, they all wanted to do more dance. And so they wanted to all learn together, so they’d all be on the same playing level.”
Moore had reservations — including whether the children would still be interested after their parents bought tap shoes.
So she started them off easy with soft-shoe tap. But the students were insistent, so many of the parents bought tap shoes for the children for Christmas.
And now, they’ll be performing a big tap number in Newsies.
They’ve picked up other skills too.
“Eli Grant, who is a graduate of LaGrange College with a performing art degree, he taught combat scenes,” Moore said. “The combat scenes will blow you away. The fight scenes are so real that even though I know that they’re not actually hitting each other, he has taught them so well that it appears they are actually knocking the heck out of each other.”
Other contributors include Patrina Maher who helped coordinate the music; Alysa Richards, the stage manager; Cameron Whitlow,S who helped with choreography; Graves Lovell, who helped build the set and more.
Moore said she hopes people will come see the show to see OTC’s progress over the last seven years.
“This is our anniversary this week,” she said. “We are seven years old. Seven years ago we met at the overall company, a group of us … We felt like there was a multitude of talent in the area and that it needed to be showcased. We know that there are other theaters that are close by but we felt that Opelika, being the eclectic, artsy community that it wants to be would benefit greatly by having a theatre located near or downtown.
“… Seven years ago, we never thought we’d be doing a show of this magnitude.”
The show will run from Aug. 5 through 7 and again from Aug. 12 through 14 at the Southside Center for the Arts, 1103 Glenn St. For tickets: https://www.opelikatheatrecompany.com.
For anyone in the community who wants to get involved, OTC will have another show soon — Clue.
Auditions for Clue will be held next week, Aug. 9 and 10 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Moore is trying to get newcomers and younger children involved, too.
“I’m starting a new beginner class on Tuesdays from 4 to 5 p.m., that will be for ages 10 and under,” she said. “And I’m also starting a new beginner for ages 11 and up, 11 to 17.”
She’s offering everyone one free class to try and garner interest.
“OTC was founded on the premise of all-inclusiveness,” she said. “We don’t care who you are, what you are, how you are or why you are. We are a family and you are welcome.”