NewArts 'Newsies' Continues To Welcome Celebrity Visitors
MONROE - Following one of the opening weekend performances of the NewArts production of Disney's Newsies which bows this weekend at Monroe's Masuk High School theater - Producing Artistic Director Michael Unger paraphrased a line from the show as he complimented his young actors for their hard work.
"There's a line in the show where they say to the character Catherine, '...you got us in the papes.' And she replies, 'no, you got yourselves in the papes.' "And after the kids Saturday night talked about what an amazing audience they had, I told them no, no you made that amazing audience; you got yourselves in the pages," Mr Unger said, repeating the show's reference to how the New York City Newsboys Strike of 1899, which put those young carriers in headlines across the nation.
Mr Unger said his cast was also thrilled to welcome a litany of celebrity guests who attended rehearsals or performances. First came Tony Award-winning composer Alan Menken.
Then, on August 1, as the cast completed a technical run through, another special guest slipped into the dark theater to observe part of a run through. As the lights came up, Mr Unger introduced Harvey Fierstein, Tony Award winner for the musical's book.
The gravely voiced but soft spoken actor, playwright, and voice actor took a turn around the stage high-fiving many of the cast members before fielding a half dozen questions.
Responding to one question, Mr Fierstein discussed the importance of collaboration, whether a show has 100-plus cast members like the NewArts production, or just one.
"The thing about theater is you never do it alone," Mr Fierstein said. "Even a one man show you don't do alone. There's lighting people, there's an audience in the theater; you're never alone. It's not theater unless there's a bunch of people. That's the great thing about creating or acting or directing. But as soon as you start feeling like you're out there by yourself, you're doing it wrong."
That concept was not lost on Mr Unger as he looked back on opening weekend, particularly in relation to the pairs of actors who are double cast in the same roles over the course of the run.
"I'm so proud of these kids in the double cast roles," he said. "They are so supportive of the other ones playing their role. There's no sense of competition or a feeling like one has to do better than the other. They watch out for each other, support each other, and nurture each other. So they are experiencing some of the best lessons the theater has to offer, and these kids understand that what they are learning about theater, they are learning about community."
Additional celebrity payback to the efforts of the NewArts cast came during the August 4 matinee, when Ben Fankhauser, the original Davey on Broadway and in the Netflix film version of the show - and Jack Feldman, the original Newsies lyricist who won a Tony for Best Original Score, were in Monroe for a performance of the show.
"Jack came and met the kids beforehand and stayed for the show, and Ben met them at intermission," Mr Unger said. "Everyone knows Ben's face from the movie, so there was a lot of screaming and autographs and selfies being taken. I ended up having to pull him out of the room so we could get back on stage for the second act."
But to his credit, Mr Unger said Mr Fankhauser came back for more after the show and stayed more than an hour greeting cast members who missed him at half time.
"Jack said he was most excited about this production because of the sheer number of people involved as well as the passion and drive behind it" Mr Unger said of the lyricist. "And Ben had never seen an actual production of Newsies except the one he was in. He said he was really excited to see how our NewArts kids were carrying the banner forward and how he was so proud of them."
The show closes this weekend, but tickets are still available. Performances are Friday, August 10, at 7 pm; Saturday, August 11, at 2 and 7 pm; and Sunday, August 12, at 2 pm.
Children's tickets are $12, adult seats range from $18 to $23, and senior citizen tickets ($15) are available for the Saturday matinee. Several sections are already sold out for more than one performance.
To reserve tickets or to learn more about the NewArts program and this winter's upcoming production of A Christmas Carol, visit newarts.org or check out pictures and videos of the celebrities' visits with the cast on the NewArts Facebook page.
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