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BWW Preview: NEWSIES Heads to DPAC

The national tour of "Newsies" is coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center August 16-21. Based on the book "Children of the City" by David Nasaw and the 1992 Disney film musical, "Newsies" debuted on Broadway in 2012, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein.

"Newsies" is inspired by the Newsboy Strike of 1899. Led by newsboy Kid Blink, the two-week strike had the same result you'll see on stage (no spoilers here, I promise!) and could be considered the beginning of the child labor movement. The film was the most-requested title of any Disney film musical not adapted to the stage, and when Paper Mill Playhouse first showed the musical in 2011, its popularity exploded.

With six new songs as well as a love story, the production keeps the story of the film while making some changes to fit the stage. The original Broadway production was scheduled for a limited 12-week run but ended up running for two and a half years and won the 2012 Tony Awards for Best Choreography and Best Original Score, as well as two Drama Desk Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards for choreography and music.

For a sneak peek before the tour heads to my area, I spoke with Stephen Michael Langton, who plays Davey. A 2013 Pace University graduate, he's actually one of the oldest cast members at age 25, which he says makes the tour a lot of fun - "traveling with younger guys who just have boundless energy." Even after all this time, he says the cast is still making connections with each other. "We work really hard, but we have a ton of fun."

I asked Langton if he draws on the film at all in his performance, but he said that staying true to the history is much more important: "We're all representing real people," he pointed out. Every Davey plays his role a differently, he said, but he did research the time period and the lives of Jewish immigrants to make sure his performance was authentic.

Langton first auditioned for "Newsies" in a regional theatre in New Jersey. He had danced for years, so between the choreography and the "cult hit-ness" of the production, he "couldn't help wanting to audition for it." He auditioned for the ensemble or understudy roles but always wanted to play Davey; finally, he realized that auditioning for that role was a better fit for him than his previous auditions. With a popular show like "Newsies," Langton told me, "They don't need to find someone who can do it. They're going to find someone who's perfect for it."

"Newsies" is Langton's first national tour, and he said he's having a blast. He's used to living out of a suitcase; "graphic T-shirts, a pair of jeans, and a computer are all I need," he said. Touring has also given him the opportunity to visit a lot of family and friends he wouldn't otherwise have been able to see (he's originally from Texas), as well as some "amazing cities" across the country.

"This is my first big anything," he said, and to perform in front of hundreds of people and "hear the applause of a whole different crowd" every night as Davey ("I couldn't have asked for a better role") is an opportunity for which he's very grateful. "Newsies," he says, has "always been the little engine that could," and he's looking forward to chugging along to Durham next week for a whole new audience.

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From This Author - Taryn Oesch

Taryn is a copyeditor and freelance writer in Raleigh, where she is a behind-the-scenes member of the theatre community. Her favorite plays/musicals are Next to (read more...)