BRUNSWICK — I’d never seen “Newsies” before and I wanted to just watch and enjoy, so I put my pad and pen away for this, the final main stage production of Maine State Music Theater 2017 season. “Newsies,” directed and choreographed by Marc Robin, is known first and foremost, as a high-energy dance show. And it’s a male dominated show, with actors portraying dozens of boys – the newsies of the title. It’s loosely based on the “Newsboy Strike of 1899,” and on child labor at the turn of the century, particularly newsies, who were the boys who bought newspapers by the bundle and then sold them to make pennies to just get by and support their families.

When newspaper tycoons trying to bolster the bottom line decided to raise prices by 20 percent, the boys decided to strike. Right and wrong, good and evil, hope and fear, David and Goliath, a little love story thrown in, music and dancing, it’s a great formula.

The dancing is fun and a little unusual. In classic musical theater, the men get to dance, but they don’t often get to jump, tumble and leap repeatedly, as in ensemble pieces they are the strong foundation supporting the women. It’s fantastic in this show to see a stage full of men really dance and dance hard.

Tumbling, acrobatics, leaping, twirling. Energetic, frenetic, around and up and down the multi-level, movable set, making the audience hold their breath in anticipation of the landing of tumbling runs. The packed house ate it up. In Act Two, there’s a good bit of tap and I noticed the ladies to my left and I sat a little closer to the rail for that. Tap always reels an audience in.

I expected the great dancing, but what I didn’t expect was stellar and nuanced performances by the leads, Matt Farcher as Jack and Kate Farhner as Katherine, in characters a world away from their roles as Che and Eva in last season’s “Evita.”

“Newsies” is a big, bold show … yet the two leads, especially when alone together on the stage, were subtle and believable in their mannerisms and phrasing and their cadence was unaffected and natural, a real treat. As an actor and a person who enjoys watching others acting, it was a pleasure to behold. They lead a strong cast in telling this story and there were a couple of times when I found myself totally sucked in and believing the make-believe.

That’s quite a compliment from 100 feet away, watching with a few hundred other folks. One of the great improvements of the theatrical production over the panned 1992 movie was a reworking of the love story. The leads do that effort justice.

It’s been pretty stressful to be a human being lately, even in our relatively plush lives here in the Midcoast. It’s always nice to be reminded of a story where the little guy stood up to the bully and his life and others were better because of it.

“Newsies” runs through Aug. 26. For tickets, visit or call 725-8769.

Tamara Lilly is a Woolwich native with 30-plus years as performer, tech, producer, director, teacher, board member and staff at community theaters in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Maine. Find the Stage Door Diva Podcast on iTunes or