Underwood and Royal take the stage

Two typewriters will be “key” players in the spring musical


Rachel McCoy and Dane Shaw

After a long performance, Underwood and W. Royal take their bows.

Two veteran actors have been cast in small but critical roles in the spring production of Newsies.

Underwood and W. Royal, antique typewriters, have been featured in film and television for more than a century. After their retirement in the 1950’s, they are excited to return to the stage following a long hiatus.

Linganore will be the first school in Frederick County to debut this musical, and these two additional actors are just what the department needs to make the staging historically accurate. Dressed in elegant black, the ancient typewriters are polishing their keys and dusting their ribbons. They will play a major role in writing a new page in Linganore High School history.

Angela Smithhisler and Daniel Lake will be directing the production. Emily Webb is the student director.

“It’s great to be working with these professionals. They know their lines; they know their blocking; and they are already off book! No notes from me. They’re at the ‘type’ of their game,” said Webb

The musical is based on the Newsie strike of 1899 and tells the story of 17-year-old Jack Kelly, a rebellious newsboy, who has ambitions to pursue art far from the big city of New York. 

When the villainous Joseph Pulitzer raises newspaper prices at the newsboys’ expense, the newsies strike against the increase and raise awareness for their cause with help from female reporter, Katherine Plumber. 

“The message of the show is that no person is too little. You can always stand up for what you believe in,” said Smithhisler.

“I am used to being small and overlooked, but my words have written history. I have seen firsthand the power of the press,” said W. Royal.

Underwood and Royal will be putting forth major contributions towards this show, as they will be assisting directly on stage, and will serve as crucial tools for reporter Katherine Plumber as she furiously writes articles raising awareness of the strike. The actors will even do a duet with Katherine Plumber in the song “Watch What Happens.” Make sure to listen for the rhythmic clicking and clacking of their keys. 

Royal has been featured in a few films, but her favorite occupation was as a stunt artist. To prove how indestructible Royal typewriters are, the company conducted stunts like throwing them from airplanes to demonstrate the durability of their casings.

“Arthritis has prevented me from being able to participate in many of the activities I used to love, so Newsies will be a lovely way to relive those days without injuring myself,” said Royal. “I remember hearing about the strike from some of my predecessors, and I can’t wait to participate in the musical version of the story.”

Underwood prefers less risky stunts. Similar typewriters of her brand have participated in numerous feature films including Moulin Rouge! and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Similar models worked with several well-known authors like Harper Lee (author of To Kill A Mockingbird). She has also made cameos in Stephen King’s novel The Shining and in the television series Parks and Recreation. 

Underwood is thrilled to have yet another role on her resume, despite her age.  She declined to tell her exact age, but, based on her serial number, she is in her mid-80’s.

“I can’t wait to be back in the spotlight,” said Underwood. “I am so excited to be working with all of the incredible people involved in the show. I’ve always wanted to sing, but just hearing some of the talented students will be enough to soothe my sticky keys.”

While it may take a while for students to become used to the weight, sounds, and mechanics of the manual typewriters, the hope of the directors is that eventually the cast will be able to cooperate fluidly.

Smithhisler’s advice to these seasoned actors?

“Don’t get yourself in a jam–we know you won’t sing ‘off-key’.” 

To see Underwood and Royal perform, come see the Linganore production of Newsies on April 23, 24, or 25 at 7:00 p.m., or on April 25 or 26 at 2:00 p.m.