Oakcrest Middle School Theatre performs "Newsies, Jr."

The Oakcrest Middle School theatre production of Newsies, Jr was enjoyed by two sold-out audiences February 24 and 25 at the Ernst Theatre in Annandale. The well-loved Disney musical was spectacularly performed by a Middle School cast and supported by an Upper School crew totaling nearly 60 Oakcrest students. 

Newsies, Jr. tells the story of New York City newsboys who were forced to pay a dramatic increase in prices to buy their daily stack of newspapers when William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer hiked paper prices due to an increased demand for news in light of the Spanish-American War. Through captivating dance and song, the Newsies tell a story of hard work and using their voices to take a stance and fight for change. 

“This show is about the larger community fighting an individual,” Dr. Kristin O’Malley Ricci, Oakcrest Visual and Performing Arts Master Teacher said. “The story has an element of coming together as a community to fight and to fight for things together.” She also added that this provided an opportunity for a lesson in which the girls could see what unity can do in bringing people together and fighting for a common cause.

Dr. Ricci was joined by Virginia Tilley as Music Director, Heather DeLisle as Technical Director, and Dr. Kat Hussmann as Choreographer. While the cast consisted of 31 Middle School students, a crew of the same number of Upper School students supported the production throughout rehearsals and backstage as well. 

One attribute of the show that presented itself as a challenge was the number of characters on stage at a single time. 

“Almost all students are on the stage the whole time during the show,” Dr. Ricci said, noting that this required significant character development from each actress. “The biggest challenge is when 31 people are on stage and they all have to be doing something different and doing that well. This is not a show where people are doing the same things.” 

The show also required the students to form their characters with great depth. Also being that many of the students were cast to play newsboys and other male characters, Dr. Ricci said that this also presented itself as a challenge. 

“The girls have to ask themselves how they might move, dance, sing, and project differently to communicate that our characters are not all girls,” she said. “The girls were challenged with both crafting and developing their characters to help tell the story.” 

Throughout the show, show-stopping musical numbers were accompanied by remarkable dance choreography. Dr. Hussmann said that especially with popular shows that are well-loved by a wide audience, she tries to use a variety of different sources and outlets when creating the dances for the show. 

“We try to use the unique skills and attributes of our students,” she said. “We’re looking to do something creative in a way that is going to emphasize our strengths as a cast and challenge the girls to move in a new way, to have them push themselves and get them to see what is possible.” 

Dr. Hussmann said that through the rehearsals the girls were growing more aware of how their bodies move and keeping aesthetic awareness at the forefront of their minds. “This helps with self-awareness and building confidence.” she said, adding that the assistance of dance captains Eva M. ‘26 and Lorali O. ‘25 was a great bonus, as they were able to help correct individual technique and push the dance numbers to new heights with their support. 

One highlight that Dr. Hussmann noticed throughout the rehearsals was seeing the excitement of the students and watching their determination to see the whole process through. “A lot of students may be new to dance, and now they can do so much,” she said. “It is such a fun style of dance that is uplifting and seeing them get excited about that while showing their emotions through their whole bodies is great… They’ve come a long way in developing their characters.”
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