Newsboys and a newsgirl with afternoon papers in New York City in July 1910. Photo by Lewis Hine


This holiday season, Cardinal Stage will bring the story of the 1899 newsboy strike to life when it presents Disney’s Newsies December 12–29 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. 

The Broadway musical tells the story largely from the perspective of 17-year-old Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, a newspaper hawker, or “newsie,” who dreams of leaving New York City for Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jack is an opportunistic businessman with no qualms about exploiting others to sell newspapers. That is until publisher Joseph Pulitzer tries to take advantage of the newsboys by raising the price they pay for the newspapers they distribute. Then Jack rallies his fellow newsies to strike for their rights. 

“It was nice to be able to step back and see a theme of identity develop for this season,” says Kate Galvin, Cardinal’s artistic director. “The central characters of all main-stage shows seek to define themselves or to challenge other people’s expectations of them. The newsboys see themselves very differently once they have collective power.”

In June, Cardinal partnered with the Bloomington Academy of Film & Theatre to host Cardinal’s Holiday Musical Boot Camp, a weeklong opportunity for 30 area kids ages 6–18 to learn the music and choreography for three ensemble songs from Newsies. Everyone was welcome; there were no auditions for the boot camp. 

“The kids were fantastic!” says Galvin, who will direct the show. “We really pushed them, and they accomplished a lot.” The kids were given materials for Newsies auditions and some will appear among the 15 kids in each performance. They also received a history lesson about the 1899 strike. “They were excited to see photos of actual strikers and how young they were, and to learn that those kids stood up to powerful men,” Galvin says.

Galvin says Newsies, winner of the 2012 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Choreography, is going to be a great holiday show. “It has a great story, tunes you’ll leave the theater humming, high-energy dance numbers,” she says. “And it’s a joyful piece.”

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