Arts and Entertainment

Charlestown’s Josiah Richardson steals the show in Derby Dinner Playhouse production of Newsies

Minute by Minute, that’s How You Win It…

by Leah Lowe Clarksville, Ind. – | There’s a lot to be said for finishing strong – and as Derby Dinner Playhouse closes out their 2018-19 season with Disney’s hit Broadway musical “NEWSIES,” this amazing cast leaves it all on the stage. The show opened on April 3rd and runs through May 19th. We were lucky enough to catch it on opening night, and can assure you that this is not one to miss.

Disney’s 1992 “Newsies” movie makes this a familiar story for both theater fans and kids (and parents) of the 80’s and 90’s. If you’re a fan of the film, you can rest assured that this adapted theater reboot will not leave you wanting. It’s every bit as electrifying, and being so close to the action will leave you with added goosebumps. For a modestly sized stage, this cast pulls off some very athletic, impressively spirited and larger-than-life choreography. No matter where you’re seated, you’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of the action…it’s truly a broadway-sized performance.

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Newsies tells the story of the 1899 newsboy strike, and a rag-tag group of underdog paperboys who go toe-to-toe vs. the machine in a battle for fair pay. The story centers around Jack, who leads the group as they organize their own labor union to take a stand against Joseph Pulitzer and other wealthy newspaper companies following a raise in the distribution cost at the newsboys expense.

“Tell those with power, safe in their tower…we will not obey.”

Blake Graham is captivating as Jack, and pours a commanding intensity into every scene. If you’re a local theater fan, you’ll recognize him from The Robber Bridegroom and other regional shows – while this lends to a certain familiarity, his versatility is incredible, as is the case for most of our local actors. Many other Derby Dinner and local favorites join to make this a very large cast that includes some favorite faces, including the incredibly talented and versatile local favorite J.R. Stuart, who plays several roles throughout the production. He is most commanding (and endearing) as Governor Roosevelt. Short of the child stars, you won’t see the Derby Dinner audience react so fondly to an actor as they do to Stuart – and as theater fans we are lucky to have his talent on a local level.

This largely male group is balanced gracefully by Harli Cooper, who plays Katherine – the rebellious daughter of the villainous Pulitzer who would rather write her own ticket than be kept, she is drawn to Jack and the paperboy’s cause. Her performance in “Watch what Happens” is impeccable and talented – both in terms of her voice and theatrical delivery. She is one to watch and we hope to see her at Derby Dinner again next season, if we’re lucky.

Tymika Prince plays Medda Larkin, vaudeville theater owner and newsie sympathist. She’ll bring a smile to your face with “That’s Rich,” and if you’re a theater fan, you might picture her as Matron “Mama” Morton from Chicago. Her voice is strong and her presence is fun – she was a bright spot throughout the show and we can’t wait to see what’s next for her.

A Charlestown Connection

The greatest treat of all, however, for Charlestown and local residents will be Josiah Richardson. Josiah was in first grade when he performed in his first musical, playing the part of Troy in High School Musical, Jr. – Josiah is now a 6th grader at Charlestown Middle School. An integral part of the Newsies cast, he’s talented beyond his years – catch him locally while you can. Those around him are impressed with his talent and have nothing but amazing things to say about him on and off the stage.

“Josiah is such a neat kid,” says Karen Wesely, Charlestown Middle School Principal. “His great instincts are valuable on the stage, but also in the classroom through interactions with his peers. He can read a situation and just always seems to know what to say to cheer someone up, or put them at ease. He’s genuinely kind.”


J.R. Stuart, local theater favorite, also says he enjoyed working with Josiah on this production. “Josiah is wildly talented, a real professional. He’s always focused and invested in the scene. He has a very bright performance future,” J.R. says, “I wish I had his resume when I was his age.”

Josiah stole the show, despite being the youngest member of a very large adult cast. He was right in step at every turn in the action-packed choreography, and impossible to take your eyes off of. He’s captivating, but humble.

“I am thankful that Jonathan Jennings (elementary) had a school theater program. It gave me several opportunities, and experience with musicals, and now CMS is doing the same,” Josiah tells us. “Hopefully in the future Charlestown theater will grow and more kids will be interested in being a part of these amazing experiences.”

While Josiah loves performing with his peers at school, Derby Dinner holds a special place in his heart. “The whole cast is really supportive of me,” he says. “I love to sing and act, but I have never felt super strong in dancing…but the choreographer, Heather Folsom, is patient and works with me until I get it. Anytime I ask, they take the time to help me.”

After watching this show, we’d equally applaud the efforts of Heather’s choreography. It’s advanced and athletic, but Josiah fits in seamlessly and carries his weight with a much more experienced cast. It’s without question the biggest show a Derby Dinner stage could allow in terms of movement and cast size.

Off the stage, Josiah is a normal kid. “My favorite thing to do is singing. I play the guitar and am learning piano. I used to play sports, but now spend more time pursing what I really love.”  Josiah says. “I also enjoy fishing, camping, and mountain biking with my Dad and brother. I’m involved in my youth group at Southeast and love playing Fortnite with my friends.”

Josiah encourages any young person interested in acting to pursue a theater camp. “When I was going into 3rd grade, I did a theater camp at Derby Dinner,” he says. “It was a lot of fun and I learned that this was something I really enjoy. Be brave; audition for a school play – you just might get the part.”

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Do yourself a favor, and save the date to catch Josiah as Charlie in Willy Wonka Jr. at Charlestown Middle School, running April 26th-27th. Follow Charlestown Middle School on Facebook for updates.

Even better, catch him in “Newsies” at Derby Dinner Playhouse, running through May 19th. You better seize the day, though – tickets are selling fast!

We’re so proud of you, Josiah!





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