After closing the theater’s doors on March 13, 2020, and producing virtual theater in the interim, the Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center is ready to open, with “Newsies the Musical,” which was in rehearsals when the pandemic struck.
“Newsies” is a high-energy, dance intensive musical based on the historical newsboy strike in New York City in 1899, that took on Joseph Pulitzer when he tried to cut their meager profits to enrich his own coffers.
The show casts both boys and girls as newsies, DYPAC administrator Debra Jackson said.
“We never draw strong gender lines or prevent a young person from performing as a male or female,” she said.
Jackson said it is amazing how much of the choreography and lines the cast retained while on hiatus.
“The cast and director are so happy to be back in a place that feels like home, and doing what they love with people they care about,” she said.
Jackson the arts organization learned to adapt during COVID-19, and produced online shows when its stage was dark.
“We found that virtual performances required a whole new set of skills, and required the tech people to really put in long hours,” she said. “We were proud to offer a way for young people to engage their creativity and continue to learn skills.”
Jackson said virtual theatre proved to be very different from live theatre.
“Theatre kids generally love to socialize, hug, dance and act, and they really missed their friends and the routine of going to rehearsal,” she said. “Virtual productions also required family members – or the actors themselves – to become videographers.”
Jackson said DYPAC is thrilled to “recharge” “Newsies” now that theaters have been allowed to reopen.
“With pandemic protocols required by the CDC and MIOSHA, and adhering to the guidelines required by the city of Trenton, we developed a protocol to keep all as safe as possible,” she said. “This required screening, masks, distancing, sanitizing and extra cleanings at the theater.”
Jackson said DYPAC invested in additional cleaning equipment and air filtering.
“The young people are just happy to return to what they love to do, and are comfortable with the protocols,” she said. “As with all aspects of the business, we have adapted, and have learned to make changes as needed for the safety of all.”
Jackson said the set design for “Newsies,” which features a tenement wall and a working printing press, was designed by volunteers Dave Overholt and Sherman Broge, and the choreographers, Amber Kittle, Elizabeth Rutowski and Molly Zaleski, with assistant Nina Nelson, have created amazing visual imagery.
She said two grants help DYPAC stay solvent during the pandemic, and they are excited to reopen.
The cast includes Nate Hermen, 17, of Dearborn as Jack Kelly; Leo Hellar, 17, of Brownstown Township as Crutchie; Jaymes Rodriguez, 18, of Flat Rock as Les; Nolan Swamy, 17 of Grosse Ile Township as Davey; Madison Ganzak, 17, of Dearborn Heights as Medda Larkin; and Aiyanna Fivecoat, 18, of Brownstown Township as Katherine.
The cast also includes: Brownstown Township residents Kyle Cronan, 17, as a Newsie, stage manager and goon; Nina Nelson, 18, as a Newsie and a Bowery Beauty; Brooke Scherer, 19, as a Newsie and a Bowery Beauty; Emma Small, 17, as a Newsie, nun and goon; and MacKenna Tocco, 14, as a Newsie, Jacobi and a goon.
Also, Joslyn Kaiser, 17, of Flat Rock as a Newsie and a Bowery Beauty; Gwen Ryan, 15, of Grosse Ile Township as a Newsie; Grace Ray, 18, of Lincoln Park as Hannah, a Newsie, a nun and a guard; and Lexie Gambino, 16, of New Boston, as a Newsie.
In addition, Riverview residents Caleb Litten, 16, as a Newsie and the mayor; Cameron MacDougall, 18, as Seitz, a Newsie and a scab; Jacob Maher, 17, as Snyder and a guard; and Tyler Zolynsky, 16, as Oscar Delancey, Governor Roosevelt and a Newsie.
Rockwood resident Bailey Brinker, 17, plays a Newsie, stage manager and a goon, while Reagan Lewis, 14, of South Rockwood plays a Newsie and a guard.
Trenton residents in the cast include: Chance Day, 17, as Pulitzer, a Newsie and a scab; Forester Day, 19, as Morris Delancey, Nunzio, Bill and a Newsie; Ava Hoepfner, 17, as a Newsie; Sara Huffmaster, 18, as a Newsie and a Bowery Beauty; Finn Jamison, 14, as a Newsie; Nina Lomas, 16, as a Newsie and a Bowery Beauty; Ashley Marshall, 18, as a Newsie and a Bowery Beauty; and Marisa Siakantaris, 14, as a Newsie, a Bowery Beauty, and a scab.
Also in the cast are Woodhaven resident Alicia Cotter, 18, as Bunsen, a Newsie and a goon, and Wyandotte resident Cordelia Krajewski, 16, as a Newsie and a Bowery Beauty.
“We hope the community will continue to support these young people, who have been so patient waiting to perform,” Jackson said. “Come enjoy an evening of theatrical magic.”
The show will run 7 p.m. July 30 and 31, and Aug. 6 and 7, and 2 p.m. Aug. 1 at the Trenton Village Theater, 2447 W. Jefferson Ave., Trenton.