‘Newsies’ on a Mission: The Island Theater’s Take on a Broadway Classic Delights and Entertains Theatergoers of All Ages

Photos by Gabby Blasco

'Newsies' on a Mission: The Island Theater’s Take on a Broadway Classic Delights and Entertains Theatergoers of All Ages

With high-energy songs by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, an uplifting underdog story, and a rousing local cast, Disney’s Newsies- The Broadway Musical is utterly delightful.

Based on a 1992 Disney movie starring Christian Bale as well as the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, Newsies runs at The Island Theater from October 4-14th (Fri. & Sat. 7:30 PM; Sat. & Sun. 2 PM). Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. Admissions cost $15/ adult and $10/ student. Plan ahead, because shows are popular and sell out.

If you’re not familiar with the plot, Newsies is the ultimate David and Goliath tale. Jack Kelly, played by Jack Billman, is an orphaned New York City paperboy who barely gets by selling papers. Powerful publisher Joseph Pulitzer (Shelvin Lamb) raises newspaper prices at the newsboys’ expense.  Jack unites a rag-tag band of paperboys, including Crutchie (Alexander Lawless), Davey (Jared Kiep), and Les (Cash Belcher), into a union and organizes a strike. Word spreads to other boroughs and the Newsies of New York band together to fight for their rights.

'Newsies' on a Mission: The Island Theater’s Take on a Broadway Classic Delights and Entertains Theatergoers of All Ages

Unlikely friendships arise along the journey, including that of Newsie Jack and Reporter Katherine Plumber (Savannah Lawless). Katherine hopes the newsie strike will provide her with an exclusive story for the Sun. “Shut down a paper like The World,” she says, “You’re going to be on the front page.” The idea works and the newsie’s cause seems unstoppable … until peril and impossible obstacles put a serious damper on their plans. Despite the danger, the kids resolve to tell the citizens of New York about the terrible plight all child laborers face and organize a citywide strike.  United, they just might be able to forge a brighter future.

This powerful tale of friendship, determination, and overcoming the odds will bring a smile to your face. Whether this is your first time seeing Newsies or it’s an old favorite, the cast at The Island Theater does not disappoint.

Sunday’s performance was truly enjoyable and the performers’ hard work and hours of practice were evident.  Supportive family members, retirees, and scores of local students packed the small theater to bursting. The colorful flower lei necklaces on each seat—a testament to the theater’s name— were delightful, and the theater’s laid-back atmosphere made guests feel welcome and at home.

'Newsies' on a Mission: The Island Theater’s Take on a Broadway Classic Delights and Entertains Theatergoers of All Ages, Photos by Gabby Blasco

For the multigenerational cast, this production has been a tireless journey several months in the making. “The production of Newsies is double cast but every one of our 56 performers are in almost every show,” says Managing Director Tricia Williams, “Our second cast is led by Landon Amburgey, who also plays a Delancy brother. Katherine is played by Jodi Jernigan, who is also a featured dancer. All the parts are double cast so our actors are versatile and incredibly supportive of each other.”

The Island Theater opened in March 2018 with a production of Annie. “Our founding members created this theater to provide accessible access to the arts in Clay County,” Williams says, “Our mission is theater education for all ages as well as cultural outreach for the community. The cast, crew, and families of this production are the heart of our theater. Community theaters thrive on volunteerism and community support and this production has delivered both.”

If you didn’t make it to opening weekend, no need to fret. There are several more showings of Newsies this coming weekend.  But don’t worry if your plans are already made. The 2018 Season at The Island Theater is not yet through, with some seriously great shows on the way: The Rocky Horror Show (Oct. 26- 31), The Crucible (Nov. 3- 11), You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Nov. 29- Dec. 2), and The Ultimate Christmas Show (Dec. 8-16). The 2019 Season is jam-packed with musical classics and new favorites too, among them Little Women, Footloose, Mulan, and The Sound of Music.  The theater also offers kids clinics for young musical theater enthusiasts.

If you’re in the mood for a foot-tapping good time and excellent local theater without pretension, head out to Fleming Island’s The Island Theater this weekend and catch a rousing performance of Newsies before its gone.

About Jennifer Melville

Jennifer Melville is a contributing writer for EU Jacksonville, South Magazine, Folio Magazine, Green Prints, Focus on the Family, and various other print and online publications. She’s a military wife, mother of four, and a leader in the NE Florida homeschooling community. You can check out more of her work on her website, Azalea Publications or follow her on Twitter.