NEWSIES ON STAGE
Cornerstone Christian School’s production of Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical is the largest in the school’s history and more than a year in the making.
“The planning probably began about 18 months ago,” said Tanya Johnson who is directing Newsies and is the vice-principal at Cornerstone Christian School. “Everything snowballed from there. We did auditions with our kids at the end of May and the beginning of June and we cast the show before school was out for the year. Once school started again, we started rehearsing the second week of September.” Newsies will run from November 7-10 at the Mae Wilson Theatre with performances starting at 7 p.m. Tickets sales have been brisk and Johnson cautioned that anyone hoping to attend should purchase advance tickets from the Cultural Centre box office or online at www.moosejawculture.ca.
“We really want people to go get their tickets early. Our Friday and Saturday night performances are selling really strongly. We don’t want people to put it off and be disappointed,” Johnson said.
Newsies has proven to be a big success on Broadway. The original run featured more than 1,000 shows on Broadway and a North American tour of the show featured 784 more performances and a filmed version of the production that was released to movie theatres.
“I think people just really need to come see the show,” Johnson said. “It’s an incredible story. We had guest choreographers come in to help us with some of the huge dance numbers. It’s a big dance show. There’s suspense and fight scenes and lots of action. There’s really something for everyone in this show.”
Mounting a production of Newsies was a unique proposition. Music Theatre International, a New York-based the- atre licensing agency, hadn’t released the rights for the show in Canada. When they hinted it might be available for schools to produce outside of the U.S. and started a countdown clock, Cornerstone started to look into it. “There was a long wait for the production rights to be available for this particular show,” Johnson said. “It is such a great show and it’s always exciting to do new material. They had built it up spectacularly. We kind of caught the bug and joined the bandwagon for that.”
Since the rights were made available, the play had been put on by a regional theatre company in Alberta and another that just closed in Brandon, Man. “From what we can tell, we’re the first school to mount the show in Canada,” Johnson said. “We’re pretty thrilled about that.”
Disney produced the musical film Newsies in 1992 based on the true story of the newsboys strike of 1899. A new Broadway production of the play was mounted in 2011 and earned eight Tony Award nominations. Alan Menken and Jack Feldman won the Tony Award for their original score. “They’ve added some different twists and turns in the plot. There’s a few more things that happen and if people are familiar with the movie they will be surprised when they come to see the Broadway version,” Johnson said. “The music is fantastic. It’s the same writers who did the music for Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. The score is beautiful in the show.” The cast and crew are comprised of 104 Cornerstone students and this is the biggest production that the K-12 school has ever done.
“We have students from Grade 2 all the way to Grade 12 in the show,” Johnson said. “We even have one of our alumni coming back to play a key role in the show, Liam McPaul. We’re thrilled to have him back. He played the beast when Cornerstone produced Beauty and the Beast a number of years ago.” McPaul is 23 and Johnson felt having an adult cast member made sense given the material.
“We don’t normally do that, but we had one role where we felt it would be important to bring an adult in to show the importance of the story,” Johnson said. “It’s a real David-versus-Goliath-type story because these kids are taking on big business to get better working conditions and things like that.”
“It’s a big dance show. There’s suspense and fiGHT SCENES AND LOTS OF ACTION. THERE’S REALLY SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE in this show.” -Tanya Johnson, Director
Cornerstone Christian School’s production of Disney’s Newsies will be the largest in the school’s history. Newsies runs from November 7-10 at the Mae Wilson Theatre.