Q&A with Paul Revere’s “Newsies” Director

The “Newsies” talented cast and crew. Photo: Lesly Hall Photography.

Palisades News sits down with with Lara Ganz.

By Staff Writer

Set in turn-of-the-century New York City, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged “newsies.” 

When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right!

Palisades News: What made you decide on “Newsies” for this year’s school musical at Paul Revere?

Lara Ganz: After working with this gifted and soulful group of middle schoolers over the past two years, I was confident that they possessed the extraordinary talent, boundless energy and robust spirit needed to bring such a complex and challenging show to life! My mission is to use performing arts to help kids find their true voice. “Newsies” is an entire musical based on a story of kids learning to find the courage to express their true voice and fight back against oppression!

The beloved poet and playwright Oscar Wilde wrote about “Life imitating Art.”  How does Newsies reflect current events in the life of the students who portray it?

“Newsies” is based on the true story of the newsboys strike of 1899. 

Ironically, the week that we were meant to start our audition process also happened to coincide with the recent teacher’s strike in Los Angeles. And like the historical newsies of the newsboy strike, the Paul Revere teachers were also successful in their efforts to fight for their rights! These two parallel stories are really inspiring! The inspiration provided by this show can benefit school children today, especially those who may endure rough or difficult situations in school, at home or in their community. 

This musical teaches kids that even in the most difficult situations, they should still go after their dreams. 

There are other themes in “Newsies” that reflect our current political and social climate, such as women’s rights in the workplace and moguls attempting to manipulate the media and hide the truth. 

You work tirelessly with Theatre Palisades Youth (TPY) and other arts-related community groups.  How did you come to be a part of the Paul Revere community?

In 2016, I was recruited by Amy Kate Connolly, to direct “Hairspray Jr.” for PEP. 

Luckily, there was a very enthusiastic and generous group of sixth graders who requested my return last year for “Legally Blonde Jr.” And now, those sublime young sixth graders are eighth graders! They are graduating and we will miss them terribly!

No man (or woman) is an island.  Who are you working with to bring “Newsies” to the stage?

Bringing this show to the stage has been the epitome of the saying “it takes a village”! Rene Rodman is our exuberant and assiduous producer. She has been working on our show around the clock and approaches every challenge with an enormous smile! We are so fortunate to have her on board.  Hayden Roush is our steadfast and mighty Assistant Director. He is also currently serving as the youth pastor at Palisades Presbyterian Church and used to be a film producer. 

We have a strong team of music directors on board: Harriet Fraser with the Los Angeles Master Chorale; Caitlin Tortorici, local musician, writer and teacher at Crossroads; and Nathan Heldman, local vocal coach. We even had a parent, Sage Grandy, come in and volunteer as a music director! Both Emma Feeheely, a skillful and artistic local dance teacher, and Lia Montelongo, local mom, dancer and artistic fitness professional, have contributed to our choreography.

Tony Tharae and Peter Geiger, both parents, have been devoting hours and hours to designing and building our impressive set. Lezlie Brazil and Mariam Mack have been designing and preparing our costumes.  Sue Geiger and Ally White have been creating and assembling our props. 

We have a strong soup of Paul Revere student stage crew helpers who have been attending all rehearsals and assisting with anything and everything: Reilly Alford, Zack Wein, Ava Dixon Elena Rosenmyer, and Pali High’s KK Peil.

 The Paul Revere faculty, Mr. Koretz and Mr. Shibata, have been so incredibly supportive of us every step of the way! There are many, many more parent volunteers, devoting hours of their time every week to help us bring “Newsies” to the stage! We are truly blessed with this community’s generosity! 

How do you like working with the tweens and teens of Paul Revere Middle School?

This cast consists of 40 teens and tweens and this group is talented, enthusiastic, whole-hearted, super-goofy and resilient. We have faced a lot of challenges together, had a lot of laughs and I am so, so proud of them! This group is really capable, and it is really impressive to see their work. I am so excited for audiences to see them shine!!

What do you hope most for this production of Disney’s “Newsies” set to take a bow in late April? 

My great hope is that this musical will energize young audiences to pursue their dreams, even in the most difficult situations. I hope that kids will learn that they are strong, and that no bully, classmate, parent, teacher or boss, can make them feel inferior if they do not allow it. I hope kids will be inspired by what these middle schoolers have accomplished and use this to face and conquer a challenging situation in their own lives!

Lara Ganz is a local children’s theater director, mother, wife, graduate of AMDA in NYC and UCLA. She is currently studying to be a drama therapist at DTILA. 

“Newsies” performances will be held Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, April 27 at 2 p.m. at the Auditorium of Paul Revere Middle School, 1450 Allenford Street.  Tickets are on-sale now at NewsiesPEP.BrownPaperTickets.com

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