By Mabell, Dave on October 31, 2019.
It’s a dramatic combination of musical performance experience and youthful enthusiasm.
Long-running Lethbridge Musical Theatre has partnered with Chinook High School to stage a high-energy production opening Friday at the Yates Centre.
A huge cast of more than 60 – half students, half community performers – is presenting “Newsies,” a musical based on a 1899 strike by youthful newspaper sellers against New York’s parsimonious publishers.
Originally produced on Broadway, the Harvey Fierstein drama was later transformed into a Disney movie. But now Lethbridge choreographers have added high-stepping, acrobatic movement to the David vs. Goliath plot to add further excitement to the family-friendly show.
“Newsies” opens a new chapter for LMT, a community theatre organization that began its history of crowd-pleasing performances in the 1960s. After a few years of rebuilding, its new board has been holding other community events while preparing for a return to the newly updated Yates.
But the show also completes a circle for director David Mikuliak, now a drama instructor at Chinook High. Thirty years ago, he directed one of the LMT productions. He also performed in a number, including “Oliver” and “Man of La Mancha.”
“It’s a great relaunch for LMT,” he says.
And with about 100 men and women showing up for LMT’s casting call, Mikuliak says it’s obvious southern Albertans are excited about opportunities to perform and to support musical theatre once again.
As he learned during his time with LMT, “It’s a rich community experience.”
Now for this co-production, Mikuliak adds, there’s the added excitement of seeing high school students working alongside adults, including some with considerable stage experience.
“They inspire each other.”
Of course the story is inspiring as well. It portrays the real-life struggle between publishers like Joseph Pulitzer and the small army of “newsies” – orphans and runaways – who were paid a pittance to sell the latest edition to workers and business people thronging the city’s already-crowded streets.
Jack Kelly, played by Talmage Conrad, becomes the persuasive leader who convinces the other teenagers they can overturn their unjust situation by uniting and standing together.
In this production, however, they’re not just standing.
Alisha and Hilary Hornberger have combined choreography and acrobatics that add further punch to the show. Meanwhile, costume designer Tisha Gilbert has fashioned turn-of-the-century attire that helps more seasoned players look young once again. And set designer Nole Richardson is using digital images to evoke New York scenes from the distant past.
LMT board member Tyler Strang is serving as stage manager, while longtime member Mary-Lynn Muhly is production manager.
“Newsies” opens Friday with performances at 2 and 7 p.m., continuing Saturday at 7 and Sunday at 2 p.m. Next week, the show runs Thursday to Saturday evenings at 7, plus a matinee that day at 2 p.m.
For LMT, however, events will continue over the winter. Board members are discovering new talent during monthly “Broadway Open Mic” events on Saturdays at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
The all-ages afternoons – the next is Nov. 30, 2 to 5 p.m. – feature group sing-a-longs, musical theatre trivia and live keyboards accompaniment, as well as an opportunity for everyone to sing their favourite songs from Broadway or the movies. There’s no cover charge.
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