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Curtain Rises: Civic delivers ‘Newsies, Jr.’

Nearly 90 young performers will “seize the day” in Civic Theatre School’s “Newsies, Jr.,” March 30 - April 2, Nineteenth Street Theatre, Allentown.

The performance is the culmination of the year’s classes at Civic Theatre School, the longest continuously-operating theater arts education program for young performers in the Lehigh Valley.

The school began in the 1950s when Ralpha Senderowitz founded the Children’s Theatre School at the then Civic Little Theatre. Since that time thousands of young performers have honed their skills in the program.

From this year’s class, 89 students will take part in “Newsies, Jr.,” co-directed by JoAnn Wilchek Basist and Brian Foley, who is music director. Cindy Lozada is choreographer. Will Morris is lighting designer.

“This rousing musical will lift your spirits and make you want to get up and join in the dancing,” says Basist, who is herself a former student at Civic Theatre School.

Disney’s “Newsies Jr.” is a 60-minute version of “Newsies The Musical,” which opened on Broadway in 2012. The musical is based on the 1992 movie musical, “Newsies,” inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. Although not initially a hit at the box office, “Newsies” developed a following after it was released on video.

The musical has a score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein. The Broadway production was nominated for eight Tony Awards, winning two Tonys, including for best score.

The score, with the songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day” and “Santa Fe,” was nominated for a Grammy Award. The junior version adds a new song, “Just a Pretty Face.”

In the musical, powerful newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer decides to raise prices at the newsboys’ expense. Charismatic newsboy Jack Kelly rallies newspaper delivery boys, aka newsies, from across the city to strike with the help of aspiring New York Sun reporter Katherine Plumber.

The cast includes Deven Ruiz (Jack Kelly), Emma Milander (Katherine Plumber), Vincent Cocca (Davey), Connor Simmons (Les), Cadence LeBlanc (Crutchie), Harrison Denithorne (Joseph Pulitzer) and Kierra Allen (Medda Larkin).

There will be an audio-described performance for visually-impaired patrons at 2 p.m. April 1. There will be a “tactile tour” for visually-impaired patrons at 1 p.m. in the theater where they can meet actors and handle some of the props. For information on tickets for this performance, call the box office at 610-433-8903.

“Newsies, Jr.” 6 p.m. March 30, 31; 11 a.m., 2 p.m. April 1, 2, Civic Theatre of Allentown, Nineteenth Street Theatre, 527 N 19th St., Allentown. Tickets: 610-433-8903; http://Civictheatre.com

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOs BY CIVIC THEATRE Emma Milander (Katherine Plumber), Deven Ruiz (Jack Kelly), “Newsies, Jr.,” Civic Theatre School, Nineteenth Street Theatre, Allentown.