Cape Coral’s newest performance venue Belle Theatre launches production of the Broadway musical “Newsies”
The Belle Theatre in Cape Coral is seizing the day with “Newsies,” a joyful, uplifting musical that embodies the resolve that young people have when they join together to stand against injustice.
Adapted from the 1992 Disney movie, “Newsies” opened on Broadway in 2012, where it enjoyed more than a thousand performances before embarking on a national tour. Along the way, it’s developed a cult following reminiscent of “ The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Full Monty.”
“Newsies” Director Dana Alvarez thinks she knows why audiences of all ages love the show.
“It’s just full of these high-intensity dance numbers, a lot of energetic harmonies and a storyline they can really wrap their heads around. So you mention Newsies and a lot of people have seen the movie or they saw the show [on Broadway] or they listened to the soundtrack and it really has a score that captures people.”
The musical revolves around the charismatic figure of Jack Kelly, a rebellious newsboy who dreams of a life as an artist away from the big city, but when powerful publisher Joseph Pulitzer hikes the price of “papes,” hanging Jack and his ragtag team of newsboys out to dry, there is nothing left to do but “open the gates and seize the day.”
Led by Jack, “new guy” Davey and young, independent newspaper reporter Katherine Plummer, the scrappy newsies form a union and organize a strike against Pulitzer and his New York World newspaper.
With a book by Harvey Fierstein (“Torch Song Trilogy” and Kinky Boots: The Musical”), the storyline and characters demand a youth-centric cast, and Alvarez has put together the perfect assemblage of area talent.
“We’re working with young adult performers who are at the youngest 13 and at the oldest 19… who have been dancing all their lives,” said Alvarez.
“They’ve been performing musical theater. They have been to international conferences where they have won awards, the top honors. So it really is the cream of the crop group from all over Southwest Florida.”
Make no mistake. This is not a junior or kids version of the Broadway show. This cast is not only classically trained, but has been honed into a tight, close-knit unit where “one’s for all and all for one.” Alvarez has directed more than 25 major musicals, her most recent being “School of Rock” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Known for her uncompromising attention to detail, perennial Broadway Palm triple threat and Melody Lane Performing Art Center co-founder Sami Doherty is providing energetic and inspirational choreography.
But for this production, Belle Theatre has pulled out all the stops. Just as Broadway Palm invited members of the original Broadway cast and touring show to direct and choreograph its recent production of “In the Heights,” Belle brought in an original Newsie to help train its cast.
“One of the really special things that makes our production of “Newsies” unique is that we were able to invite Michael Fatica, who is a Cape Coral native, but was in the original Broadway cast of “Newsies.” He was able to come down and spend the weekend with our cast, giving them a super special workshop on choreography,” said Alvarez.
“They learned how to dance on top of newspapers, split the papers, keep them attached to their feet and do all sorts of tricks with them. So, it was great to be able to invite an old friend of mine from school and from theater to fly down, get to visit family but also see our new space and work with our kids.”
In fact, Fatica put his own spin on tap-heavy numbers like “The King of New York” and, of course, the Jack Feldman (“The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) and Alan Menken (“Thumbelina,” “Pretty in Pink”) anthem “Seize the Day.”
Now is the time to seize the day
They're gonna see there's hell to pay
Nothing can break us
No one can make us quit before we're done
One for all and all for
One for all and all for
One for all and all for one!
““Seize the Day” is the most iconic song from “Newsies” because that is when they decide that they are going to get together and strike as a bunch of newspaper salesmen on the street, and really seize the day,” said Alvarez.
“They’re going to speak out against oppression. They are going on strike, and even though that’s going to affect their bottom line, they have the courage to do it. So, it has that inspiring term that really gets them motivated, and people hear it and they automatically know that song.”
However, it’s not just Alvarez, Doherty and their eager youthful cast who are seizing the day. Producing Artistic Director Tyler Young and his Belle Theatre team are also seizing the opportunity to bring Cape Coral a brand new performing arts venue.
“We are the newest, and only the second performing arts center in Cape Coral,” said Young. “There’s only been one for all these years and now we finally got a second.”
The theater is an homage to Young’s grandmother, who not only supported Tyler in his theatrical pursuits, but supported the arts in general. When she passed in 2017, she bequeathed her grandson enough money to start a theater of his own, which he finally launched just a few weeks ago with a production of “School of Rock.”
“Her name was Bellemira Young. Short for Belle. Always went by Belle. No one ever called her Bellemira, and we sat around the table trying to come up with a name and Belle Theatre came out, which seemed pretty simple at the time, but now has a great ring to it.”
The 7,000-square-foot, 115-seat theater is state of the art, with a brand new stage, brand new equipment and cushy, comfortable seats.
“There are only seven rows in the theater, which allows every seat to have a great view,” said Young with obvious pride. “This facility and theater really allows us to interact with our audience and become part of the audience and bring them into the experience on stage and be part of the production.”
Creature comforts aside, with “Newsies,” audiences can expect a terrific, well-rehearsed and expertly staged musical, with Aubrey Barnhouse in the role of newspaper reporter Katherine Plumber and Harvey Evans in the role of Jack Kelly.
“Newsies” plays at Belle Theatre June 11-19. A debut performance originally scheduled for June 10 at 7 p.m. has been rescheduled for Saturday, June 11 at 2 p.m.
The new Belle Theatre is located at 2708 Santa Barbara Boulevard in the Cape just a six minute jaunt over the Midpoint Memorial Bridge.
And the world will know!
That this ain't no game
That we got a ton of rotten fruit and perfect aim
So they gave their word?
Well it ain't worth beans!
Now they gonna see what
"Stop the presses" really means
And the die is cast
And the torch is passed
And the roar will rise
-From the streets below
-And our ranks will grow
And so the world will feel the fire and finally know!
Everyday we wait
Is a day we lose
And this ain't for fun
And it ain't for show
And we'll fight 'em toe to toe to toe and Joe
Your world will feel the fire and finally (finally) know!
To read more stories about the arts in Southwest Florida visit Tom Hall's website: SWFL Art in the News.
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