By MIKE CHAIKEN
Extra, extra, read all about it.
The Disney musical “Newsies” is making its maiden voyage on the road. And it arrives at Waterbury’s Palace Theater on Oct. 23 for a run that continues through Oct. 25.
As “Newsies” makes its way across the country for the first time, Stephanie Styles will be the first ever actor to perform the role of the reporter, “Katherine,” on a national road tour. She essentially will be setting the bar for actors who take on the character in the future.
(In the Broadway show, “Katherine” had been played by two actresses. Kara Lindsay initially performed the role in New York and she was succeeded by Liana Hunt.)
“It’s so exciting,” said Stephanie of the opportunity to blaze a new trail with the character. (Although she is the first actress in the road tour, Stephanie offered a tip of her hat to Kara and Liana. “I have two lovely women to learn from.”)
And she was also beside herself with joy to be part of a musical that arose out of the Disney brand.
Prior to becoming a popular stage musical, “Newsies” was a Disney movie. The film was based on a true story about how the newspaper boys in New York City at the end of the 19th century who organized a strike against the powerful publishers of the era.
When the film “Newsies” was released in 1992, it didn’t do blockbuster business for Disney. But over time, it developed a cult following. And in 2011, a musical opened in New Jersey, which eventually transferred to Broadway in 2012. (It closed this past summer.)
“I grew up as a Disney nerd,” said Stephanie in a phone interview from Schenectady, N.Y. where the show was just finishing up its run of tech rehearsals before opening for previews. “I’m obsessed with everything Disney.”
So to be part of a musical based on a Disney musical, said Stephanie, “It’s a dream come true.”
As an actress, Stephanie said, this road tour is also a great opportunity to play such an “exciting character.”
“Katherine Plummer” is an amalgamation of two characters from the original musical. It combines the qualities of the male reporter and the female love interest in the original film.
“I would totally be friends with Katherine,” said Stephanie of her character. She explained Katherine comes from a sheltered background and was raised in a certain way. But in the course of the story, she discovers a side of herself that she didn’t expect.
In addition, Stephanie said the two could be friends because they have shared interests. “She’s a writer,” said Stephanie, and it’s a passion she shares with her character because she writes as well.
In the musical, Stephanie’s character is one of the few females on stage. And as an actress, Stephanie is surrounded by male actors, young and old. But she doesn’t mind being on stage with all the guys, younger or older.
“It’s fun being with the boys,” said Stephanie. As performers, Stephanie said the male actors are constantly inspiring her with their “phenomenal talent.” In turn, the performances by the guys encourages her to kick up her own performances a notch to reach their level.
“They’re so great,” said Stephanie.
As noted, the film “Newsies” developed a cult following that eventually helped bring the story to the musical stage. Asked why she thought this was the case, Stephanie said, “People loved it and taught their children to love it.”
The affection for the film is understandable because “Newsies” had all the characteristics of a classic Disney tale, explained Stephanie, who was a mere 1 year old when the film came out in 1992.
“The hero (newsboy Jack Kelly) is full of hope, which is the trademark for Disney protagonists,” said Stephanie, speaking about the story’s appeal.
Stephanie said the musical also succeeds because it is blessed with a great score with music by Alan Mencken and lyrics by Jack Feldman and a great book by Harvey Fierstein.
“Every song is epic,” said Stephanie, “there’s so much raw emotion. I love to sing it.”
Stephanie also loved how Fierstein transformed the movie into a stage production.
And, of course, the stage set follows in the grand tradition of Disney musicals, she said. “It is a spectacular.”
With “Newsies,” said Stephanie. “You get everything you love about a classic musical. It’s a wonderful story, a true story, a raw story with twists and turns and a big surprise at the end.”
The production arriving at the Palace features Dan DeLuca as “Jack Kelly,” Steve Blanchard as “Joseph Pulitzer,” Stephanie Styles as “Katherine,” Angela Grovey as “Medda Larkin,” Jacob Kemp as “Davey,” Zachary Sayle as “Crutchie,” and Vincent Crocilla and Anthony Rosenthal alternating the role of “Les.” Rounding out the cast are Mark Aldrich, Josh Assor, Evan Autio, Bill Bateman, Joshua Michael Burrage, Kevin Carolan, DeMarius Copes, Benjamin Cook, Julian DeGuzman, Nico De Jesus, Sky Flaherty, Steve Greenstein, Jon Hacker, Jeff Heimbrock, Stephen Hernandez, James Judy, Meredith Inglesby, Eric John Mahlum, Ginna Claire Mason, Michael Ryan, Jordan Samuels, Jack Sippel, Melissa Steadman Hart, Andrew Wilson, and Chaz Wolcott.
The show runs from Thursday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 24 at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 25 at 2 and 8 p.m.
Tickets for “Newsies” are $70, $60, $50, and $30, and can be bought by phone at (203) 346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org, or in person at the box office, 100 East Main St. in Waterbury.
By MIKE CHAIKEN