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OKC Broadway brings hit musical Newsies to Civic Center Music Hall

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Newsies, a Disney Theatrical Production under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Newsies, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein, starring Joey Barreiro (Jack Kelly), Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer), Morgan Keene (Katherine Plumber), Aisha de Haas (Medda Larkin), Stephen Michael Langton (Davey), Zachary Sayle (Crutchie), John Pitera or Ethan Steiner (Les) under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, North American Tour - DEEN VAN MEER
  • Deen van Meer
  • Newsies, a Disney Theatrical Production under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Newsies, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein, starring Joey Barreiro (Jack Kelly), Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer), Morgan Keene (Katherine Plumber), Aisha de Haas (Medda Larkin), Stephen Michael Langton (Davey), Zachary Sayle (Crutchie), John Pitera or Ethan Steiner (Les) under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, North American Tour

A classic story of underdogs standing up to powerful corruptors, the Newsies musical has built quite a cult following since its original 1992 film version.

Newsies’ female lead Morgan Keene spoke with Oklahoma Gazette about the high-energy Broadway performance coming to town.

“It’s funny, because at first I wasn’t aware there was a Newsies movie,” said Keene, who was not yet born in 1992. “Being involved in theater, I knew the musical version very well, and you could definitely say I was a die-hard fan.”

For those who know Newsies, chances are the movie’s youthful Christian Bale comes to mind or they’re already an avid Broadway fan. For those who don’t know Newsies, Keene said there’s undoubtedly something in it for those folks, too.

“The production has athleticism, romance, comedy and such a magnetic energy that it’s impossible not to be entertained,” Keene said. “There’s something for everyone in the performance, whether it’s for families, older audiences or couples on a date night.”

Dancers perform in Newsies. - DEEN VAN MEER
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  • Dancers perform in Newsies.

‘Absolutely ecstatic’

Keene portrays Katherine Plumber, a bourgeoning news writer drawn to the real-life newsboys strike of 1899 in turn-of-the-century New York City. Among all the characters in Newsies, Katherine functions as the plot’s active undercurrent.

“Katherine is a young, independent journalist in an industry dominated by men,” Keene said. “She was not a character in the movie version, but makes an important addition to the stage production. The story ends positively thanks to Katherine’s efforts to help the newsboys.”

Newsies features interpersonal drama, political activism and, of course, vivid dance numbers with accompanying songs from the original movie. Keene said she’s fueled by Katherine’s audacious spirit and resolve, making for a convincing and inspired performance.

“I was absolutely ecstatic to get the part,” Keene said. “Katherine and I have a lot in common. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, and if she wants something, she won’t quit until she gets it.”

Katherine wants a compelling news story, but she also wants the male lead’s heart. Joey Barreiro portrays Jack Kelly, extending Bale’s fresh-faced vigor as the newsboy’s head activist from the film to the stage.

“I think the musical’s romantic narrative will draw a lot of people to the show,” Keene said. “The relationship between Jack and Katherine has the universal appeal of a classic romance and makes the story’s overall style more complex.”

Newsies, a Disney Theatrical Production under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Newsies, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein, starring Joey Barreiro (Jack Kelly), Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer), Morgan Keene (Katherine Plumber), Aisha de Haas (Medda Larkin), Stephen Michael Langton (Davey), Zachary Sayle (Crutchie), John Pitera or Ethan Steiner (Les) under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, North American Tour - DEEN VAN MEER
  • Deen van Meer
  • Newsies, a Disney Theatrical Production under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Newsies, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein, starring Joey Barreiro (Jack Kelly), Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer), Morgan Keene (Katherine Plumber), Aisha de Haas (Medda Larkin), Stephen Michael Langton (Davey), Zachary Sayle (Crutchie), John Pitera or Ethan Steiner (Les) under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, North American Tour

‘Cutthroat news’

OKC is one stop of countless North American cities in Disney’s first national Broadway tour of Newsies. The production requires excessive travel, which has turned Keene into a more disciplined actor.

“Because we travel so often, I’ve had to really force myself to eat well, exercise regularly, and stick to a strict bedtime,” Keene said. “I didn’t think I could be that self-controlled, but this tour has made me more professional in all areas of my life.”

Keene’s self-determination also translates to the scarcity of her own gender in the cast. She is one of several women in Newsies’ large repertoire of actors. Fortunately, Keene said an encouraging group of men support her.

“Working in a production full of boys can seem intimidating, but they’ve been very supportive,” Keene said. “They’ve made me feel like their sister and always make sure I feel safe and that I’m performing at my best.”

Every major industry is unavoidably two-sided in practice, and journalism especially presents an ethical dualism between integrity and seedy business practices.

Although the musical maintains a light-hearted core, Keene said the production still critically engages with reality.

“The journalism industry wasn’t something I’d considered until this role,” Keene said. “Playing Katherine has given me some insight into how cutthroat news reporting is and how it takes a lot of confidence to be a journalist and a woman. I’ll take this role with me even after the production is finished.”

Newsies runs Wednesday-Sunday at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Ave. Visit okcbroadway.com.

Print Headline: Newsworthy notes,  OKC Broadway presents smash hit musical Newsies at Civic Center Music Hall.

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