MUSKET, one of University of Michigan’s most well-known student musical theatre organizations, produces two full scale productions each year. Their fall show this year will be “Newsies in Concert,” a filmed show featuring music from the Broadway show of the same title.
Based on the real events of the Newsboy Strike of 1899, “Newsies” follows Jack Kelley, played by Music, Theatre & Dance junior Ethan Hardy-Benson and his band of young New York City newsboys. The newsboys protest the raising of newspaper prices by a publishing giant and the newsies’ subsequent loss of pay. The musical features the prominent themes of the power and voice of marginalized groups.
“Most know Newsies for its epic choreography and adorable Broadway cast (featuring Music, Theatre & Dance alum Andrew Keenan-Bolger!),” Music, Theatre & Dance and LSA junior Amelia Baumann, an Assistant Producer at MUSKET, wrote in an email interview with The Daily. “MUSKET is introducing this cult-favorite musical to modern audiences with a fresh perspective for the screen, filmed right here in Michigan!”
To comply with COVID-19 policies, Newsies will be performed as a virtual concert. Songs from the Broadway musical presented by cast members can be streamed by anyone with MUSKET’s free link. To accommodate this project, MUSKET has added a brand-new Film team to its organization. The virtual format of the event not only allows the production to follow public health regulations, but it will also hopefully mean that it can attract more viewers — even those not currently in Ann Arbor. MUSKET has also ensured that the entire rehearsal process has been in strict accordance with the University’s safety restriction
“I have been endlessly inspired by the tenacity and creativity of the entire team collaborating on Newsies in Concert,” Baumann wrote. “The incredible organization of our Executive Production team, flexibility of our Creative team, and passion of our actors has proved that the show must always go on!”
Not only is “Newsies” a fun and uplifting story about big dreams and camaraderie, it also pushes the message of rising up against deep rooted systems of power. A significant theme is the importance and power of children and young people to take charge and demand justice. These ideas have become more and more pertinent as the production has moved forward throughout the semester.
“In the past months, we’ve watched the bravery and passion of protesters taking a stand nationwide,” Baumann wrote. “The importance of standing up for your beliefs came close to home in September when myself and my peers in the Theatre and Drama Department of SMTD went on strike in solidarity with GEO.”
She explained how Newsies resonated on a very personal level with all of the cast and production team who were participating in a real strike on campus. Though their characters fight for fair pay and prices at the turn of the twentieth century, the actors present a story that has never been more relevant than in 2020, closing out a tumultuous year with a reminder of struggle, solidarity and hope.
“MUSKET is proud to tell the story of making a difference when, as the Newsies say, ‘there’s a change coming once and for all,’ on screen, in school, and in our country!”
Newsies in Concert will premiere on YouTube on Dec. 10 at 8 p.m., EST. Check the MUSKET website or Instagram (@ummusket) for the link.
Daily Arts Writer Caroline Atkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.