High school theater group's last performance was November 2019.
by: Samira Taite-Headspeth and Brian McMillan
Carpe diem, or seize the day, was Matanzas High School Troupe 7108’s motto last year, as the actors and crew prepared to perform “Newsies.” But the school was shut down in spring 2020 due to the pandemic, and the troupe missed out on both a state competition and the opening of “Newsies” two weeks later.
Musical Director Noel Bethea and the troupe didn’t quit, though; they continued to seize the opportunity. During quarantine, their meetings continued through Zoom, focusing on how to better their craft, including singing and tap dancing.
The hard work is about to pay off, as Matanzas presents “Newsies” this week, the first live performance since November 2019.
“Newsies,” the Broadway musical set in 1899 in New York City, is a story of the rebellious underdog Jack Kelly bringing his crew of rag-tag newsboys together on a mission fighting for what’s right. It’s based on a true story, when labor laws weren’t yet established for children working in factories.
“It’s a story of David and Goliath,” Bethea said.
Bethea recalled watching Disney’s 1992 film starring Christian Bale as Jack Kelly. She would watch it over and over again, and it became a life goal to one day produce the play.
“We’re doing something no one’s ever tried, and yes, we’re terrified, but watch what happens.”
— from “Newsies”
Jack Kelly is being played by student director Ethan Fink, an 11th-grader. He said the character is his dream role, so he started preparing for it as soon as Bethea chose the play about two years ago.
“It’s so cool to see your imagination and the things you envisioned come to life on that stage,” Fink said.
The role of Katherine is being played by Lauren Marie Januszkiewicz, a senior. She feels lucky to be playing this character.
“So many people view ‘Newsies’ as just a strike, but it’s also about women empowerment,” Januszkiewicz said.
This year being her last makes this play especially meaningful to her because of the connections she has made with Troupe 7108.
“They’re my family,” she said. “It’s almost impossible to not get close with everyone. You see them every day at rehearsal and hang out before you get ready.”
Bethea believes that the performing arts are an important part of a well-rounded education, and they enable students to interact and meet people.
“We take pieces of literature and make them come alive,” she said.