Debbie Pletcher is thrilled to direct the Broadway musical ‘Newsies’ for the Port Arthur Little Theater (PALT) which debuts this weekend. The story centers on the “Newsies”, i.e. newsboys who sold newspapers on street corners and their fight against price hikes in 1899 with Joseph Pulitzer and other publishers.
“This is my bucket list show,” Pletcher said. “It’s been a dream for me since the movie came out in the 80s starring Christian Bale.”
There are several Orange Countians on the show, including a trio of students from Little Cypress-Mauriceville.
Kiera Howington, a high school student at LC-M, is a veteran of the PALT scene. She plays Albert. “He’s a little sassy, I guess you would say,” Kiera said. “He’s got an attitude. He’s one of the smaller reporters but he’s got a personality. I really enjoyed playing him.”
She tried “Newsies” to gain more experience in musical theater. She’s been in dramatic productions.
“I thought since I’ve been coming here for so long, it would be a good experience.”
This is the first time that Cole Watson comes to the PALT. He has been a member of the LCM Bear Players since his second year and was looking for more experience in music productions.
“I really wanted to get as much experience as possible, especially in musical theatre,” Cole said. “I want to continue doing theater in college and beyond, so I need to get as much experience as possible.”
He also did theater as a child at West Point, before moving to Orange County when he was in the fourth grade.
Cole is part of the set and plays Spot Conlon. “He’s a character that doesn’t have a lot of lines, but he’s really important to the story,” Cole said. “He’s the head of the Brooklyn newspapers.” Spot has been essential to the effort for its support in bringing news from other boroughs.
Currently, Cole is entering his senior year and has already secured a $1,000 per semester scholarship to Stephen F. Austin University for theater studies, so he is high on his list of schools he is considering.
Jordyn Chargois is a student at Lycée LCM. She has been dancing for years but this will be her theater debut.
“I love to sing and I love to dance. Here I can put it all together,” Jordyn said. Making new friends was the best part of her experience. “I make new friends everywhere I go.”
Her favorite part of the show are the tricks and somersaults she has to do as part of the choreography. As for a favorite number on the show? “Honestly, I love them all,” she said.
She scores a point. “Newsies” is filled with many great song and dance numbers.
This is Pletcher’s 12th musical to produce for PALT. She hired four assistant directors to help her with the production.
“Two of the four also lead the music and vocal direction for the show,” Pletcher said.
Carson Lewis and Kristen Baker begged to be choreographers.
They dubbed all the main parts because people from all over southeast Texas showed up for the auditions. Pletcher said music auditions normally draw around 50 people, but more than 90 showed up for “Newsies.” She attributes the large turnout to the fact, to her knowledge, that this is the first production of “Newsies” by a local community theater in the area with adults.
“I know it was done with kids from Kidmunity,” Pletcher said, referring to the Beaumont Community Players kids program. “I know some high schools have done it, but no one else,” she said.
“There was so much talent that we couldn’t say to someone, ‘oh you can just be in the set,'” Pletcher said. “It was amazing the amount of talent. I was blown away.”
Opening night for “Newsies” is Friday. The show runs from July 29-31, August 5-7, and August 12-14. The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays are a matinee at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults; $13 for seniors, teachers, and active duty military; and $11 for students. Make reservations by calling 409-727-PALT or you can purchase tickets online at palt.org. The theater is located at 4701 Jimmy Johnson Blvd., Pt. Arthur.