By Jamie Bullins

Pinewood Performing Arts, Thursday, July 14, 2022, 8:00 pm. 

I’m most likely one of a very small group of people who have never seen Newsies, prior to last evening, ever. The film or the stage version. So, my first time was with Pinewood. Last evening was also my first time back at the venue since the new renovation. Nice. And a lovely evening as well, sitting out under the stars, watching theatre. 

Pinewood Performing Arts always brings it. Large scale musicals, strong casts of dedicated and talented folks. Courtney Piccoli (director/choreographer) guides them through each scene and song with a heartfelt panache that keeps you engaged all the way through. 

We are reminded during intermission that the evening’s production is produced by volunteers. People who are passionate enough to give of their time and talents to make this juggernaut (Courtney’s description) come to fruition. That makes the evening special. 

Courtney also talks about the multiple changes of location scenically, and that is definitely a challenge with this scale of musical. But they handled it well, Jeff Maldavs (original set design & builder), Emma Hoffbauer (scenic artist/paint designer), Dylan Warren (set dresser/prop master), and, of course, Sheric Hull (lighting designer). It’s always enjoyable to experience the sunset during the runtime and watch the lighting take a more featured role in the process. The visual elements all seemed to work well together, and the changes went smoothly throughout, setting up a variety of scenes quickly and effectively. None of it was distracting to the audience, which is a ‘win’ in my book. 

Maralee Maldavs (costume designer) is known around Lincoln for a certain quality of work. So, one does not doubt the costumes will be exceptional, always appropriate for each of the characters, and a significant addition to the story. ‘Nuff said. Good job Maralee, especially Medda Larkin and those adorable Bowery Beauties. We could see their legs! And hats off to your intern Bailey Leuty, I know how much work interns contribute to a process, most often without appropriate pay or kudos. 

The characters most definitely leapt off the stage (literally) and told a story that is important for each and every one of us to hear. Courtney describes it as a “musical that showcases courage, family, and faith in one another.” Has there ever been a day more apt than now for each of these? Seize the Day, dammit. Absolutely. Garret Michael Weskamp is a charismatic and sharp Jack Kelly. It is not difficult to believe that the boys would follow him. Kevin Pynes is his complement extraordinaire, with great chops, a triple threat across the board. There are too many people in the cast to comment on everyone, but just to point out some specific moments: Ambi Anuh-Ndumu (Medda Larkin) holds that entire stage space on her own for That’s Rich; Oliver Daily (Les) is absolutely adorable and basically steals every scene he’s in; Amanda Dewey (Katherine Plumber) is a spirited young woman in a time that certainly frowned upon such things and she carries it well, while at the same time being soft enough to steal Jack’s heart; and Bede Fulton (Crutchie), during Letter from the Refuge, let’s just say if there were a dry eye in the house, I’d have been surprised.  And to remind you all once again, all volunteers. That means they want to be there, hours on end, to tell this story of hope. Outside, in the sweltering heat of the summer. 

Have I said this before? The theatre here in Nebraska has heart. You don’t want to miss this. Thank you, Pinewood Performing Arts, keep telling your stories.

If you go: You can catch Newsies July 15-17, 21-24 at 8:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased online.  

Jamie Bullins is on the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an Educator, Scenographer, Director, and Playwright and has been at it for almost 30 years now. As always, if you liked this content and want more, please join our email list and like us on Facebook!

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