Newsies cast takes new approach

March 4, 2021

Performing arts teacher Merrie Palmer had her work cut out for her this year. She did not want to sacrifice this year’s musical, but she needed something that could be adapted to be COVID friendly. Newsies fit that bill and also seemed to Palmer to be a good tie in to modern events.

“I felt like it was perfect time to tell this story,” Palmer said. “This was a story about the under-represented finding their voice, stepping up and demanding a change. I wanted these kids to see that the Newsboys strike of 1899 was an example of how children really could illicit real and lasting change when they work together.”

To meet COVID guidelines, masks were worn during all practices and rehearsals, staging and choreography were planned to spread singers apart on stage, dressing rooms were shut down and even romantic scenes were modified. Despite all her best planning, Palmer and her cast could not escape COVID.

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“I thought I had lost this lead role my senior year, but we ended up bouncing back and doing the show later in the year, which I am so grateful for.””

— Justin Sampson

The week Newsies was set to debut began with one of the leads in quarantine and ended with the play being shut down completely. Senior Justin Sampson saw his final performance slipping away.

“I thought I had lost this lead role my senior year, but we ended up bouncing back and doing the show later in the year, which I am so grateful for.”

Two months after the shut down, the Newsies cast was back on the stage for their final performances, which were completely sold out.

“The two weeks leading up to that moment had been quiet, as if everyone was holding his or her breath just waiting for us to be shut down again,” Palmer said. “The kids were scared to get excited, scared to hope that this would work. But that moment just before show, we met together and I told them we had made it. Whatever else happened after that day, we had learned we couldn’t control. But that moment was ours. We knew we had the next two hours, so we were going to own them and do what we loved.”

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