At Long Last, Fire & Light's Newsies Hits the Stage
Performances Friday, August 6, 7 pm, Saturday, August 7, 2 & 4 p.m., and Sunday, August 8, 2 p.m
Once upon a time, movie musicals were based on successful Broadway productions. In recent years that script has flipped with a large number of theatrical productions stemming from successful films. Everything from Footloose to The Producers has made the trip from Hollywood to the stage. Newsies, based on the popular 1992 Disney film, has had a remarkably successful transition to film even if it did take almost 20 years to happen. Now the show is popular on the road and in theatres around the country.
Staging Newsies in Fort Wayne this weekend is Fire & Light Productions which is both an educational organization, providing theatre classes for youngsters of all ages, and a performance organization, staging several productions during the year. Like everyone else, Fire & Light lost more than a year, playing it safe with their students and volunteers. In May they staged three plays in three weeks, a rather astonishing approach to catching up. This weekend’s productions of Newsies has been in the works for more than 18 months, and it has seen its fair share of stops and starts along with way.
“I first knew I’d be directing it in January 2020,” said Lorraine Knox, director of Newsies. “It was supposed to be the spring semester show last year. Then it was going to be the fall semester show last year or the January show this year. It just kept getting pushed back.”
Along the way there were a variety of staff changes, and Knox said the new choreographer has been wonderful. In all, the changes have provided a boon to the production, but nothing may be more important than the change in venue. With Fire & Light recently announcing a partnership with the University of Saint Francis, the university’s Goldstein Performing Arts Center downtown is now the venue for Fire & Light performances.
“The partnership with Saint Francis wasn’t in the works yet when we first planned the show,” Knox said. “That’s been huge and amazing benefit. The stage is wonderful. It’s literally huge which is great for a show like Newsies. We have 46 in the cast, and with that many people, a huge stage is very beneficial.”
The popularity of Newsies, which features the story of late 19th century newspaper sellers who rise up in protest against the corporate juggernauts who seek to exploit them for their own financial gain. Knox said that that dynamic is at the heart of its timeless appeal.
“It’s the typical David vs. Goliath story,” she said. “The little guys are put upon and find a way to rally for their cause. They get done what needs to get done. Those stories, when told well, are always fun to watch. Plus the music is catchy, and the dancing is amazing.”
With a big cast and thrilling production numbers, it can be a lot of oversee.
“It is challenging keeping all parts in motion,” Knox said. “You have to make sure not to let anything slip through the cracks. There are a lot of moving parts from the scene changes to the music moving through transitions, and there are 46 people moving through that stage. But it’s fun and amazing to watch.”
Unlike most Fire & Light shows, Newsies will feature some alumni as well as current students. With many of the 2020 seniors denied their final show – and some already cast in the production before the shutdown – Fire & Light executive director Lisa Ellis and Knox felt it only fair to open up the restrictions a bit.
The production opens on Friday, August 6 with a performance at 7 p.m. Saturday will feature performances at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday’s matinee takes the stage at 2 p.m. Coming later this season from Fire & Light Productions will be Around the World in 80 Days in November, The Wizard of Oz in December, Anne and Gilbert, The Musical in January, and The Little Mermaid in April.
To purchase tickets to this weekend’s performances, visit fireandlightproductions.com/tickets.