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Newsies senior leads prepare for opening night and their last high school show

Seniors Emmalee Bosma, Riley Widboom and Issac Ramirez will take the stage Thursday at 7 p.m. with the rest of the "Newsies"cast for their opening performance.

Worthington High School leads Isaac Ramirez and Eammalee Bosma in the production of Newsies.
Worthington High School leads Isaac Ramirez and Eammalee Bosma in the production of Newsies.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — As opening night draws closer, Worthington High School’s cast of "Newsies" is hard at work. For several seniors, this means preparing not just for the show, but for the last musical of their high school careers. With challenging dance numbers, a lively ensemble, and set against the backdrop of 1899 New York City, "Newsies" will be a show to remember for the audience and cast members alike.

Senior Emmalee Bosma brings the fiery Katherine Plumber to the stage. For Bosma, playing the young, intrepid reporter intent on putting the Newsies’ strike — and her name — on the front page has been one of the most natural parts of being in the show.

“It’s not super challenging, playing Katherine. I think she's interesting, and I like her as a character,” Bosma said, though she adds it feels a little strange to be one of the only female characters in the show.

This is Bosma’s third musical, after being in the high school’s production of “Secret Garden” as a freshman, and “Once Upon a Mattress” as a sophomore. While there was no musical last year due to the pandemic, Bosma is excited to be back on the stage and has taken to the challenges of coming back to a difficult show after a year away — and on top of that, she had to learn tap dancing.

“Tap dancing has definitely been a new skill, it’s been very challenging,” Bosma laughed. “I’m not the most coordinated, but I have confidence in our choreographer and the whole team that we’ll be able to pull it off.”

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As her last opening night approaches, Bosma reflected on the past few months of rehearsals and said she’s grateful for the opportunity to grow as both a leader and a performer, though the best part of the show has been her castmates.

“It’s been the best, just being around all of these amazing people,” she said. “It shows how much of a supportive theater program we have at Worthington High School.”

It’s a sentiment newcomer to the stage, Issac Ramirez, seems to agree with. Ramirez, also a senior, joined the cast at the persuasion of one of his friends, and found himself in the lead role of Jack Kelly, the Newsies’ charismatic young leader.

While Ramirez said the learning curve was steep, the enthusiasm of the cast helped him feel more comfortable on stage.

“There’s so little that I knew, but Parrish is good,” Ramirez said of director Eric Parrish. “He keeps us on track and he and the cast are helping me so much.”

Ramirez has received everything from memorization tips to extra dance help and reassurance from his fellow classmates and the directorial staff with the show. Though he loves to sing and is involved in the school’s concert choir, he’s been surprised at how much he’s enjoyed acting in the show. It’s been a challenge, certainly, but he’s looking forward to putting on a good performance for the crowds.

“There's a lot of people that are important to me coming to watch the show and I really want it to be good. I want them to be like ‘Wow, I'm glad I didn't miss this,’” he said, noting that he’s excited to have his mom in the audience. “I'm looking forward to everyone being fully memorized, fully engaged, and putting everything into the show and like just feeling that, like, magical moment on stage.”

For Ramirez, an athlete involved with football and track, getting into theater was a very different experience.

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“It’s a different type of community than being in sports, but I kind of like that,” he said. “Everyone’s super nice, and they think differently. They’re more open to everything. That’s been a cool experience.”

While Ramirez is getting his first and last taste of high school theater, fellow senior Riley Widboom is no stranger to the stage, having started doing shows back when he was around eight years old with a production of Music Man. Widboom will portray the show’s villain, Joseph Pultizer, a “rich, greedy sourpuss” who owns “The World” newspaper, and creates obstacles for the scrappy Newsies.

“I've never been the antagonist before; I guess I’m an evil guy,” Widboom said. “So it's a lot of fun to kind of try something new. I really enjoyed figuring out who Pulitzer is.”

With both his dad and grandpa being theater lovers themselves, Widboom has watched both play antagonistic characters before, and was excited to step into that role. "Newsies" will be Widboom’s third high school musical and fourth Worthington High School Production, giving him approximately 10 shows under his belt.

“Going into my last musical, it’s a little sad,” Widboom shared, though he said he plans to stay involved in theater after graduation. “I’m definitely going to miss it. I’ve made a lot of friends and it has really opened my eyes.”

The show wouldn't be possible without choreographer Tiffany Koppds and director Eric Parrish, though, Widboom said, and it certainly wouldn’t run as smoothly. With a cast made up largely of students who are new to the stage, Widboom has watched a lot of his castmates discover for the first time what he loves about the theater.

“I think it's just been a lot of fun seeing those people learn what I learned when it was my first musical too, and kind of, you know, coming alongside and helping them with that,” he said. “It takes patience and you gotta kind of start from the bottom and teach the basics. But I think that's been a lot of fun seeing everybody learn some new things in this production.”

Also an athlete and a member of the FFA and Future Teachers of America club, Widboom likes to keep busy, but he’s always looking forward to that opening night performance.

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“That adrenaline rush just a few minutes before you go on is the scariest feeling in the world, but it's also one of the greatest feelings when you're out there, and everybody's watching you,” he said. “It's just so fun to see the relief of everybody, once they realize how good the show actually is. I don't think we realize how good we are until we get out there and hear people clapping. That's definitely my favorite part is just seeing it all come together and performing it to the community.”

"Newsies" opens Thursday night at Memorial Auditorium and runs through Sunday, with performances at 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Sunday’s performance will be at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for kids and are available now on the Memorial Auditorium website.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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