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126 students help tell story of the 'Newsies'

Members of the Mitchell High School musical ensemble perform during the dress rehearsal for "Newsies" on Wednesday at the MHS Performing Arts Center. The Broadway musical debuts 7 p.m. today, with additional performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (Sheila Slater / Republic)1 / 2
Members of the Mitchell High School musical ensemble perform during the dress rehearsal for "Newsies" on Wednesday at the MHS Performing Arts Center. The Broadway musical debuts 7 p.m. today, with additional performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (Sheila Slater / Republic)2 / 2

The historic musical featuring the paperboys who strike against the newspaper companies in an effort to protest a price hike will debut Thursday at the Mitchell High School Performing Arts Center.

Directed by Jennifer Randall and Melissa Miller, the "Newsies" musical tells the historic story of the strike young newspaper salesmen participated in at the turn of the century as the newspaper boys battled back against the price hike newspaper companies imposed on them. Based in New York City in 1899, the musical follows the boys toward better pay and stricter laws for child labor.

Randall and Miller obtained the rights to the high school production after they were released last spring.

"Once it came to Broadway, directors like myself and students all over America were so excited to do the stage version," Randall said.

In total, 126 high schoolers are involved in the musical between actors, technical help and the musical pit. In addition to individuals who play various characters, the freshman and sophomore Mitchell High School Kernel Choirs are also a part of the production.

"This is definitely an ensemble cast," Miller said. "Like the 'Newsies,' they work together, they collaborate together."

Miller said the set was strategically designed to transport the audience to the settings of the musical without becoming problematic for the large cast.

"You want to keep it simple with that many people, so nobody is tripping on things and nobody is getting hurt," Miller said. "We're not caught up in sensory, we're caught up in the story of the 'Newsies.' "

Laundry lines, rotating platforms, a wagon and a printing press included in the set help place the audience into the world that is the "Newsies."

"You can expect to be really transported to those gritty streets of New York around the turn of the century," Randall said. "It's a really vibrant place to be; it's also a really impoverished area of the time and the set really helps take you (there)."

Along with the simple but precise set, Bret Werpy, the Performing Arts Center manager, has been helping students with the technical work, manipulating both sound and lights to add to the magic of the musical.

Miller said the musical has created a buzz around the theater world, so much so she has received calls from individuals all over the state and outside of the state asking for tickets.

"Theater is a social message and it teaches you so many things," Miller said. "This (musical) is an accumulation of love from every single person. This is an accumulation of passion to get this message out — that message of how we treat people."

The "Newsies" debuts on the Mitchell High School Performing Arts stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, with the house opening at 6:30 p.m. The musical will have performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. General admission tickets can be purchased for $5 for adults and $3 for students. Students with an activity pass can receive a ticket for free.

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