Given the current craze for all things nostalgia, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Broadway adaptation of the ’90s Disney musical “Newsies” has been a huge hit. Anyone who couldn’t make it down to New York to relive one of their favorite childhood movies is in luck: The show is about to head to Boston for its first run there. Traveling with them is Jacob Kemp in the role of Davey, one of the newsies who takes part in the strike, but who bears a bit more responsibility than the others, because he has a little brother to watch over. We chatted with the Needham native about traveling with a national tour for the first time and carrying the banner.
How are you liking your first tour?
It’s been a remarkable experience, having the chance as a young actor getting to see so many cities and have a chance to really be a detective of character. As an actor, our job is to play these people from all across the globe who have a variety of different backgrounds and histories and having the chance to see all of the places I’ve read about is a very, very important tool for me.
Where else have you guys been so far?
Oh man, I think this is my 29th city this year? Yeah, we’ve been all across the country, we have been on the East Coast, on the West Coast, to the Southwest… We just came down through Texas and now we’re heading back up the East Coast.
What can you tell me about Davey?
Well, Davey is the lens through which you see the story unfold. He is the newest newsie who joins the band of brothers early on in the play and he and his brother become newspaper sellers because their father has actually been injured at work. And it’s Davey’s education and his intelligence that sparks the idea to have a newsboys’ union and throughout the entire play he really is the brains behind the operation.
So he’s got a little more responsibility weighing on him than the other boys because of his brother.
Absolutely, I think more than any of the other characters in the show, Davey’s world view has been severely affected by what’s happened to his father at work and his integrity and his sense of self really are defined by what has happened not only to, you know, his father based on his experiences over the course of the plot of the show. But also, I think Davey has a sense that, not only what’s happening to the Newsies, but what’s happening to children all across New York, is basically an issue that is countrywide and that the Newsies are representative of only one small community that is being affected by the corruption and by the insensitivity of the major corporations.
Did the show make you think about unions any differently?
I can’t even tell you the effect that a show has, not only on an actor, but on the entire crew when you tell a story every single night a hundred times. Not only characters that you play but the stories and the value behind the show, or behind the story, have a lasting impact on you. The Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 was a youth-led campaign which reinforced change across the country, against child labor. And it’s kind of unbelievable, that this strike was so successful in increasing awareness but also increasing, in a more pragmatic look at it, it really increase the amount of money that these boys received for their work and raised huge, huge awareness to Child Labor laws in the United States.
So which one is your favorite number?
My favorite number is the 11 o’clock number, it’s called “Once And For All.” The entire company joins together on stage to basically at the 11th hour, pull together and –––- Aw, I shouldn’t give away the plot point. [laughs]
We’ll include a spoiler alert.
Ha, they pull together at the 11th hour to finalize their plan for the Newsboys’ Strike.
What do you like about it?
One of the things I love is actually the vocal arrangements. The harmonies are thrilling and the soaring tenor line that was written for the tenor 1 track is one of my favorite pieces to sing in the show.