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Columbus Children’s Theatre Is Opening Its 60th Season With Newsies

As any former theater kid will tell you, there’s something magical about show time.

The performing arts can have such a profound experience on kids, and I should know, because that’s exactly what happened to me. I was very fortunate to grow up in an artistic family. I had four older sisters who set the bar really high, whether it was singing in choir, playing in band, or acting on stage.

Watching them while I was growing up, I knew that there was something special about the time they spent in plays and musicals, the friends they made and the confidence they earned. So when I finally participated in my first ever musical in 7th grade, I was ready to experience that for myself. I’ve never asked outright, but I’m fairly certain that the Pleasant View Middle School production of Bye Bye Birdie wasn’t anything too extraordinary for the audience to see. But it was incredible for all of us up there on the stage.

We had poured our hearts and souls into the show, and finally performing it in front of a crowd, even if it was only our parents and teachers in the audience, that was a level of fulfillment I hadn’t experienced before that.

It’s hard not to see that same excitement and fulfillment reflected back in the eyes of the kids at Columbus Children’s Theatre. From the moment they walked into their cozy, welcoming rehearsal space in downtown Columbus, I could tell that this was so much more than a kid’s production of Newsies. I know that the word “safe space” gets tossed around a lot these days, but you could feel just how empowered and safe they felt walking through the doors.

They were fired up and ready to put on a show, even if it was still two weeks to showtime. You could tell that they were excited to be there, dedicated to each other and the challenge before them, and I have to be honest, it got me hyped. I was instantly transported back to my theatre days, warming up before that curtain separated.

Live theatre is an agreement.

As cast, crew, and audience members, we all make a collective agreement that for two hours, we’re going to allow ourselves to be transported somewhere else. We agree that the world can slip away and that we’ll share that space, that energy, with one another to fully enjoy a collective experience that’s hard to achieve anywhere else.

It may surprise some of you to know that the cast and crew of the Columbus Children’s Theatre isn’t made up entirely of kids. There are plenty of adults on hand, industry professionals from around the country, who are all working towards creating a one-of-a-kind experience for these young actors.

The cast of Newsies. Photo courtesy of Columbus Children’s Theatre.

From the acclaimed director of this production to the cheerful stage manager/marketing director who happily made time for us to stop in, even when it was clear she had 100 other things to be doing, the kids of the Columbus Children’s Theatre are getting a valuable experience as young performers: the chance to work with adults who are the living embodiment of the dreams they aspire to.

Alexa Clint, who plays Catherine Plummer, shared how it feels to be an adult working with such a talented young cast. “I have very visceral memories of being one of those kids and looking up to the adult performers that I was working with and being like, wow, that’s what I want to be when I grow up,” said Clint. “Looking at that person and seeing them doing these incredible things, and singing the big show, stopping numbers and doing all of that and getting to watch that and watch the process, as a young performer is just so inspiring. And I think kind of instilled in me the work ethic that I have taken with me now into being that adult performer.”

Newsie’s, on the surface, may seem like a feel-good story about a rag-tag group of kids who set out to change the world with a song. But it’s much, much more than that. Set in 1899, the story is based on the real lives of newsboys during the Strike of 1899. Newsboys Kid Blink and David Simons led a group of orphans and runaways on a mission against newspaper publishers Pulitzer and Hearst. The themes have stayed surprisingly relevant.

“I think everyone dreams about doing Newsies at some point in their career because it’s just so bright, and so full of joy and exuberance, but also such a wonderfully touching story to tell,” said Plummer.

Newsies also marks an exciting change of scenery for Columbus Children’s Theatre. For the first time, the company will be performing at the Southern Theatre.

The historic theatre, located in the heart of downtown Columbus, will further enhance the hours of work and dedication that the cast and crew have put into this show. It’s a grand stage that’s seen some of the world’s best performers over the years.

“This is the company’s largest show in history. So in sort of scope and size physically, it is our largest set, an extremely large cast, and we don’t usually perform at the Southern Theatre,” explained Artistic Director Zack DelMonte.

Preparing the Southern Theatre for Newsies. Photo courtesy of Columbus Children’s Theatre.

Speaking with Michael Broadhurst, who plays Les, was like speaking to a tiny bolt of lightning. His energy and passion for his part in this show were evident from the moment he walked into the room. Broadhurst is a middle schooler, but he handles himself like a true professional. And that’s in part due to the professional atmosphere that permeates throughout Columbus Children’s Theatre.

“With the late night rehearsals, at first I was trying to get to know people as well as getting lines memorized and songs down,” said Broadhurst. But he took those challenges of managing a demanding schedule and a lead role and began to apply them in other areas of his life. “It helped with my organization and like, learning good strategies to memorize things for tests.”

When I asked him what he wanted audiences to take away from the performance, he said that he wanted people to focus on the small details. “The little details make it really cool, more real in a way,” he explained.

So when Newsies opens this weekend, I have a suggestion. Let’s all enter into that aforementioned collective agreement of wonder and creativity, take in the details of their hard work, support our local arts, and most importantly, enjoy the show. Because I know for a fact that the hard-working people behind the production will give everything they have to take us all along on a very special journey.

Newsies will open the Columbus Children’s Theatre’s 60th Season on Friday, September 23. The show runs through October 2. For more information, or to purchase your tickets, please visit