Hot off the press: Malibu Middle School’s spring musical ‘Disney’s Newsies Jr.’

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Crutchie (center), played by Josh Bellamy, and Jack Kelly (back), played by Nick Ortiz, are shown in a scene with others in the cast during the Malibu Middle School production of "Disney's Newsies Jr." on Thursday, Feb. 9. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

It’s 1899 in New York City and “Newsies” are overworked, underpaid, and are being treated like garbage.

Over the weekend, audience members joined Jack Kelly, played by Nick Ortiz; Crutchie, played by Josh Bellamy, and Katherine; played by Sophia Rodriguez; and the Newsies as they made newsworthy “papes,” form a union, take on the world, and seize the day.

Based on Disney’s musical film and the real-life newsboy strike of the 1890s in New York, “Disney’s Newsies Jr.” is a version of the Broadway musical that was brought to life by students in Malibu Middle School.

In the musical, and in history, when powerful newspaper publishers like Joseph Pulitzer, played by Ella Newman, raise paper prices at the newsboys’ expense, their charismatic leader, Jack Kelly, rallied other newsies to strike against the unfair conditions. 

Twenty-seven Malibu students come together to sing, dance, jump, flip, and cartwheel on stage as they create a movement to fight for what’s right.

The music, combined with the dancing, was energetic and uplifting. The stage, costumes, and props were creative and captivating. 

Ortiz delivered a charming and delightful performance as he led the Newsies to stand up for their rights. His performance in “Santa Fe” was inspiring and engaging.

Audience members couldn’t stop grinning and clapping during Newsie Austin Molina’s performance of “Brooklyn’s Here.” 

The cast for “Newies Jr.” sure kept the audience smiling and laughing all evening and weekend long.

Students in the production included Molly Regan, Vaughn Sloan-Veenstra, Morrison Sloan-Veenstra, Presley Polatin, Ana María Mitrovic, Pixie Jones, Kelly O’Connor, Kona Shorr, Rebecca Rayo, Austin Molina, Albert Joslin, Leila Trujillo, Taylor Murray, Lola Anderson, Sadie Regan, Nixon Riddick, Frances Hughes, Soraya Karimpour, Elizabeth Kim, Jordyn Zimmerman, Priya Batour, Hanna Stajdujar, and Lucas Gonzalez. 

Newsies Jr. was directed by Dr. Krysta Sorensen, Brigette Leonard, and Amanda Kofsky.

After the cast bowed for their final applause, Bellamy and Ortiz thanked their directors and technical staff for their hard work. 

“We’d like to give a huge thank you to Amanda [Kofsky] our choreographer for this entire show,” Bellamy said. “She helped us out so much and made it so easy and adjustable for everyone.”

Bellamy and Ortiz asked Kofsky to join them on stage to accept a gift and share a hug.

“Without Mrs. Amanda, we wouldn’t have a show,” Ortiz said.

Technical staff included Joellen “Cha Cha” McNaughton, Vaughn Sloan-Veenstra, Brigette Leonard, Connor Hayes, Bryan Baysore, Alejandro Melendez, David Peters, and Julia Cheri Hoos. 

The Middle School Theater Arts Department would like to extend special thanks to Arts Angels, Jolynn Regan, Debbie Sabag, Will Harper, Loan Kim, Dina Newman, Nicki Polatin, Farnaz Gaminchi, Rachel Stowell, Carla Bowmann-Smith, Beth Papp, Tania Jolly, The MMS custodial staff, the MMS security staff, Jodi Plaia, Paula Lytz, Patrick Miller, Cindy Smith, and all the supportive parents and friends who gave their time and energy for this production.