Disney’s Newsies!

8b180a38 c288 4e98 bba3 919bfc4aa3caDid you hear the news? The Des Moines Playhouse opens their production of Disney’s Newsies! beginning this Friday, July 12. With a huge cast and some show-stopping dance numbers, Newsies is sure to be a treat for everyone! It’s been a world-wide whirlwind to put this all together, so read all about it!


Disney’s Newsies! is based on the 1992 movie of the same name, and was turned into a stage musical in 2011. Originally only supposed to run for a limited time, the show became a huge hit on Broadway, ran for more than 1,000 performances, and spawned a filmed stage production/video release and beloved cast album. Many of the current members of the Playhouse cast are very familiar with the show through this exposure, and it even led one to audition from half a world away.


Around the World

438737fa deaa 4b6f af41 f5bb6c2c1ca6Lauren Taylor is a Musical Theatre performance major at Drake, and this past spring was spending a year abroad in London, enjoying the West End and the wonderful theatre lore that England has to offer. But she was still overseas when auditions were held for Newsies, and she knew she wanted to play the part of Katherine in this show. So, thanks to the modern miracle of video and the internet, she started the process.

“I did send in a video audition and those are always nerve wracking,” says Taylor. “You could put your absolute best work forward and not be considered because you are not in the room during live auditions. So I spent about a week working on my audition pieces, filming, and editing them together to make a nice package to send along. Once it was sent I just sat and waited (rather nervously). Because I wasn't at the live auditions I wasn't able to see anyone I was up against. All I could do was trust the work I put in and check my youtube channel to see if the video was getting views. It continued to get views and my hope went up slightly every day.”

”But because I was out of the country the playhouse had a difficult time getting ahold of me! My email address had been entered wrong and my US number was not active. [Director] David Kilpatrick finally was able to reach me through Facebook on a trip to Munich. I was able to finally breathe and have a little dance party in the square with my friends. I will forever be grateful that they took a chance on a video audition from a girl they had never worked with before.”


Close to Home

4d99ead9 1e06 49fa 88b6 fb2d845d41c7Playing opposite Taylor as Katherine is her love interest and leader of the newsies, Gavin Runles as Jack Kelly. He was also very familiar with the musical, and knows he has big shoes to fill. “For a long while now, playing Jack Kelly has been a dream of mine. So when I first landed the role, I was speechless. Feelings of happiness and anxiety flooded my brain. Previously, I hadn't seen the original movie but had become well acquainted with Jeremy Jordan’s performance of the show on Broadway. Seeing what he can do and feeling the responsibility to be just as good if not better than that standard is truly a driving force for my performance.”

“In my eyes, Jack is an extremely complicated character. The traits I believe I share with him are how he cares for everyone around him. He feels a responsibility to impress everyone as well as keep them safe. The most striking trait about him, however, is his powerful leadership and masculine smooth speaking skills. Which for me have been the hardest to nail thus far. Throughout the show there's a great sense of stealing power and that's the biggest aspect that I've personally had to work on.”


All the Newsies

47e4f3a9 d0cb 471c 8ef0 8cf35f55214cNewsies! is an extremely dance-heavy musical, full of iconic performances. And if you’re going to do a show like that in Des Moines, you automatically go to the best choreographer in town, and that’s Megan Helmers. But even she had a massive job ahead of her, just to select the outstanding chorus of talented newsies for this production. 

“Massive is an understatement! I think at final count, we had 175 audition for this show. That kind of enthusiasm was wonderful, but also overwhelming. In fact, we had so many show up to audition that we realized there was just no way we would be able to see everyone dance - we made an initial cut down to around 75-100 people after the first night of vocal auditions, and didn't even dance until the Tuesday callback. I know that was disappointing for several who had attended the workshop and worked hard on the audition choreography during the week prior to auditions, but with those kind of numbers, there was just no other way for us to do it. Once we called back our initial group, I led a dance callback and then cut down even further for a tap callback the next evening.”

96691619 fdbe 4227 ad70 f7cb819e1893“Honestly, it was not difficult at all for us to pull together a solid group that could sing, dance and act in equal measure. The hard part was cutting people. I probably had around 40-50 potential newsies who could have pulled off the choreography and vocal requirements with ease. In fact, we were only planning to cast sixteen newsies, but because of the extraordinary talent we saw at auditions, I was able to convince David to let me have twenty. I just couldn't cut any more of them - they were all so great.


Even just to get to twenty, I had to make some heartbreaking cuts and lose people I really wanted to cast, but who just didn't work in the group we had for one reason or another. What we ended up with is a solid, dedicated and talented cast who have worked incredibly hard - I think they know what they were up against to get through this audition, and they're definitely not going to let us down.”

4796b941 d0ab 42ed a3f7 211ee789ab8e“I grew up watching, rewatching, and loving the movie version of Newsies, and when the musical came out I obviously loved that too. After seeing it on Broadway in 2012, I never could have looked into the future and imagined I would get the chance to choreograph this show. It's been a complete delight from start to finish, and I can't imagine having a better cast of newsies to choreograph on. No matter if you grew up with the movie like I did or just love the musical version, you're going to be amazed and what they pull off on that stage. I promise, this is not one you want to miss.”

Disney’s Newsies! will be presented at the Des Moines Playhouse starting July 12 through August 4. Tickets are available in person at the Playhouse box office located at 831 42nd street, by calling 515-277-6261, or through the Des Moines Playhouse website. 


Newsies Photos by Steve Gibbons, courtesy of the Des Moines Playhouse.

Audition video courtesy of Lauren Taylor


Megan Helmers Des Moines Playhouse Lauren Taylor Gavin Runles