Newsies, the high-energy, Tony Award-winning musical leaps into Providence for a limited run October 20-25 at the Providence Performing Arts Center. While on Broadway, the show broke numerous attendance records and received 23 theatrical award nominations. The show has developed an almost cult-like following of fans across the country. Joey Barreiro stars in the touring company of Newsies as Jack Kelly, leader of the rag-tag group of young boys who stand up against the larger-than-life newsmen of the time, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, to fight for a better life.
“I’m ready,” says Barreiro in an interview this week. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time. I can’t wait to get on stage.” The show is based on the real life newsboy strike of 1899. Newsboys were the kids who stood on street corners yelling, “Extra, extra!” to sell papers. At that time, a 13-year-old Kid Blink led a band of homeless newsies on a strike against the titan publishers in New York City. “It’s hard to get your head around the fact that those kids, the real newsies, were so young,” says Barreiro. “I can’t believe how hard life was for them.”
Understanding the history is as important for Barreiro as his character, the music and dance moves. Barreiro also gives credit to his fellow castmates for the show’s success. “It’s amazing what these kids can do,” says Barreiro, referring to the athleticism of the crew of newsboys who sing and dance every night at a high level of energy. “But it’s a show for everyone, not just for teens. It’s about taking action and making things happen.”
An enthusiastic Barreiro gladly admits it’s “the life of an actor” to leave home and travel wherever the opportunities take you. Barreiro joined the company at the end of September, after training for weeks in New York City for the show and the role of Jack Kelly. Despite his young 20-something age, Barreiro has many credits to his name including Saturday Night Fever, A Chorus Line, and Into the Woods, among many others. Originally from Miami, Florida, Barreiro resides in New York City, but received much of his training in Connecticut. He earned his Equity card while doing summer stock in Connecticut.
Traveling with a talented group of fellow thespians makes for a great experience, however, there are challenges. “When we rehearsed in New York, we didn’t have set pieces,” confides Barreiro. “So when we get to a venue and the giant grid towers are set up on stage, it can be interesting!” There are three giant, moving set pieces that his character, Jack Kelly, has to run around. “Sometimes, if I hesitate, one of the kids up on the grids will whisper, go left!” laughs Barreiro. But their dance captain, Andrew Wilson, makes sure everyone is set with their cues and ready to go before every performance.
Newsies is directed by Jeff Calhoun and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli. Although they do not travel constantly on the road with the cast, they do visit in certain cities and definitely leave their professional impression upon the actors. “We have to walk a fine line with our characters,” insists Barreiro, sounding like the well-trained actor he is. “We have to keep in mind the [culture] of the time, and the real ages of the people we are playing. I believe in truth on stage, and I want to be true to my character.”
At PPAC, Newsies tickets are available at the Box Office, 220 Weybosset St, PVD, 401-421-2787 and online at ppacri.org. The box office is open Monday through Friday, 10am to 5pm; Saturday, 10am to 2pm and two hours prior to all curtain time(s).