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Musical 'Newsies' to make headline-grabbing debut at Detroit Lakes Middle School on Nov. 4

The curtain rises on Detroit Lakes High School's fall musical, "Newsies," on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m, with additional evening performances set for Nov. 6, 12 and 13 as well as a Sunday matinee on Nov. 7.

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In a humorous scene from "Newsies," brothers Davey (Matthew Morrison) and Les (Lucas Lundberg) squabble over Les's attempted ogling of the Bowery Beauties (Molly Brooks, Hadlee Justesen, Jaden Mercil and Siri Vagle). (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)
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With a cast of 50-odd student actors and actresses, plus another 30-plus backstage crew, the debut of Detroit Lakes High School's annual fall musical on Thursday, Nov. 4 is shaping up to make headlines, of a sort: Yes, this year's production is the Disney movie and Broadway stage favorite, "Newsies."

Five performances of the show are scheduled for early November, including four evening shows as well as a Sunday matinee (see below for details).

Though it is a musical, this show is based on a real-life event: The New York City newsboys' strike of 1899. Because of the preponderance of young, male roles in "Newsies," artistic director Kathy Larson and assistant director Mark Everson thought the timing was right for this fall.

"When we were casting last year's show ('Songs for a New World,' which was held last spring instead of in the fall due to COVID-19 restrictions), we had no idea we would have all this amazing, young male talent show up to audition," Larson said.

"That's what started the conversation," said Everson, adding that "Newsies" was a show that both he and Larson had wanted to do "for a long time."

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"The music is incredible," he said. "It's a Disney show, so the whole family can come — and it's really inspirational."

"The great Alan Menken wrote all this fabulous music," Larson agreed. "There's just not a bad song in the entire show ... which is rare."

"It's an intense show," Everson said. "It puts the pedal down from the first scene and never lets up."

"Newsies" is also a show that requires a deep well of talent, Larson added: "We had to have the right mix to do it."

"It's deep in talent, light in pitch," joked Ethan Hendrickson, who plays Crutchie — a reference to the preponderance of tenor vocals required for many of the songs.

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In the opening scene of "Newsies," Jack Kelly (Kameron Wilkins, left) describes to his friend Crutchie (Ethan Hendrickson) his dreams for finding a better life out west. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

Hendrickson is one of the stars of the show, alongside Kameron Wilkins (Jack Kelly) and Noah Hendrickson (Joseph Pulitzer), to name a few. Pulitzer is just one of several real-life historical figures that are part of "Newsies," Everson noted, adding, "Theodore Roosevelt shows up too."

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Ethan's parents, J.D. and Nerissa Hendrickson, are also the principal set designers and carpenters for the show, and J.D. is serving as sound technician as well. In fact, this year's show involves the entire Hendrickson family.

"All three of our boys are doing it (the fall musical) together, for the first time — and the last," said Nerissa, noting that Ethan is a senior this year.

Nerissa and J.D. Hendrickson explained that they based their set design on an 1890s New York City fire escape; the backdrop is a series of panels embossed with newsprint.

"They're real newspapers from 1899," Everson added, noting that they'd procured the images from the National Archives.

Nerissa Hendrickson noted that Larson has been a stickler for the details when it comes to the show's design, from sets to costumes and everything in between — "which is great," she said, "because it just makes everyone work that much harder."

"It takes a very special person to bring the best out of such a large group of people — us included," added J.D. Hendrickson.

Though Larson is definitely the principal architect of this year's show, she is also quick to point out that she couldn't do it all without help — and this year, she has drawn some of that behind-the-scenes talent not just from the usual group of parent volunteers, but also from her cast.

"We have a student director for the first time this year, as well as a choreographer who is a student," Larson said, referring to Annie Houglum and Malia McKenzie, respectively.

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Friends Jack Kelly (Kameron Willkins, left) and Medda Larkin (Annie Houglum) share a laugh in a scene from "Newsies," which opens next Thursday, Nov. 4 at Detroit Lakes Middle School's George Simson Auditorium. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

In addition to their choreographic and directorial duties, the two young women also play major roles in the production, as Katharine Plumber and Medda Larkin, respectively. Katharine is the love interest for Wilkins' Jack Kelly, while Medda is one of Jack's closest friends.

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Newsboy Jack Kelly (Kameron Wilkins, left) shares a romantic moment with Katharine Plumber (Malia McKenzie) in a scene from the Detroit Lakes High School musical "Newsies," which opens Thursday, Nov. 4 at Detroit Lakes Middle School's George Simson Auditorium. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

"I'm just super excited," said McKenzie. "It's our first fall musical coming off COVID, and it's really nice to see things getting back to some form of 'normal' again."

Wilkins, who plays Jack Kelly, put in a plug for McKenzie's efforts, noting that she was a "phenomenal" choreographer. "This show wouldn't be what it is without her," he said.

Houglum agreed with Larson and Everson's assessment about the score of "Newsies," noting, "There is no song in this show you can go wrong with — it's phenomenal music."

She added that she was thrilled "to see it all come together — not just for the actors, but for the set builders, the backstage crew and everybody."

If you go

What: Detroit Lakes High School Presents "Newsies"

Where: George Simson Auditorium, Detroit Lakes Middle School

When: Nov. 4, 6, 12 and 13, 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 7, 3 p.m.

How: All tickets are $10 and reserved seats are on sale in advance at the courtesy counter of Detroit Lakes' Central Market . Tickets will also be sold at the door starting approximately one hour in advance of each show.

Extra! 'Newsies' Cast, Artistic Staff & Crew

Jack Kelly: Kameron Wilkins

Crutchie: Ethan Hendrickson

Race: Neil Trowbridge

Specs: Jude Houglum

Henry: Abram Steinke

Finch: Hadlee Justesen

Elmer: Siri Vagle

Romeo: Micah Barberg

Jo Jo: Anika Erickson

Mush: Chase Housholder

Buttons: Gavin Krause-Opitz

Tommy Boy: Austin Holt

Katherine Plumber: Malia McKenzie

Darcy: Gannon Braun

Nuns: Emma Mitchell, Jenna Allen, Noelle Trowbridge, Siri Vagle

Oscar Delancey: Jeffery Moen

Morris Delancey: Nate Cihak

Wiesel: Nate Lembke

Davey: Matthew Morrison

Les: Lucas Lundberg

Joseph Pulitzer: Noah Hendrickson

Seitz: Trysten Schwarzrock

Bunsen: Andrew Nunn

Hannah: Hannah Barberg

Snyder: Travis Smith

Medda Larkin: Annie Houglum

Bowery Beauties: Molly Brooks, Hadlee Justesen, Jaden Mercil, Siri Vagle

Mrs. Jacobi: Rachael Wagoner

Scabs: Gannon Braun, Marv Mai, Jaden Mercil

Police Officer: Victor Jimenez

Mayor: Nate Cihak

Spot Conlon: Aiden Holt

Bill: Marv Mai

Governor Teddy Roosevelt: Erick Ziegler

Primary Dancers: Lily Anderson, Zoe Cariveau, Maddie Kukoski

Featured Dancers: Molly Brooks, Addie Clark, Anika Erickson, Izzy Hansen, Hadlee Justesen, Jaden Mercil, Andrew Nunn, Siri Vagle, Anna Yost

Newsies: Brooklynn Anderson, Vayda Flint, Onika Greer, Benjamin Hansen, Eli Hendrickson, Lucian Hesebeck, Brooklyn Johnson, Khloe Jorgenson, Sophia Karlgaard, Tristan Kiser, Madison Mendl, Cole Rotter, Aaliyah Thompson, Charlotte Trowbridge, Derek Wagoner, Tristan Wahl

Director/Producer/Vocal Director: Kathryn Larson

Assistant Director/Light Design Technician/Video Design: Mark Everson

Sound Design Technician: JD Hendrickson

Choreographer: Malia McKenzie, Class of 2022

Student Director: Annie Houglum, Class of 2023

Rehearsal Accompanist: Paul Heisler

Set Designers: Richard Hennings, JD Hendrickson & Nerissa Hendrickson

Master Carpenters: Richard Hennings, JD Hendrickson, Nerissa Hendrickson & Tom Trowbridge

Scenic Artist/Prop Mistress: Nerissa Hendrickson

Costume Design: Alley Cook

Production Assistant: Chelsea Larson

Printing Press Design & Construction: Mike Nustad

Sound Technician: Aiden Wass, Class of 2022

Stage Manager: Gannon Braun

Backstage Assistant Manager: Lawson Greene

Backstage Crew: Addison Lowell, Marv Mai, Evan Thomas & Erick Ziegler

Spotlight Operators: Linnea Aelony & Kaitlin Hanson

Carpenters: Brenda Houglum, April Thomas, Ryan Hansen, Kate Hansen,Dan Jorgenson & the DLHS Building Trades Classes

Costume Team: Esther Bromander, Lori Foltz, Zada Foltz, Katelyn Haarstick, Lona Justesen, Trista Koppes, Jean Livingood, Nancy McKenzie & Madalyn Sukke

Scenic Painting: Mary Rotter, Kathy Michaelson & Rick Michaelson

Properties Assistant: Carol Nustad

Makeup Artists: Annie Houglum & Jaycee Haverkamp

Related Topics: THEATERDETROIT LAKES
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