(Orem, Utah) -- A local theater company approached director Michael Carrasco earlier this year and asked him to direct a musical. He said he would be glad to as long as the production was “Newsies.” Since that wasn’t the play they had in mind, he passed—and he’s glad he did.
That’s because Carrasco then happily accepted an invitation from SCERA to direct the opening musical of its 35th Anniversary Season at SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre. He had wanted to direct this prize-winning Broadway musical long before it was released recently for regional and community theatre.
“I love, love, love ‘Newsies,’” Carrasco explains. “It’s a great script based on a real story, and to do it on a large stage in an outdoor setting makes it even better. The first time I stood on the stage this spring, I found it quite emotional. I remembered playing Riff in ‘West Side Story’ there 35 years ago in the Shell’s very first season. To be part of the beginning and then this milestone celebration is really gratifying. I am honored to be asked.”
“Newsies” will play June 7-22 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre, located in the middle of SCERA Park at approximately 600 South and 400 East. Tickets can be purchased at www.scera.org, by calling 801-225-ARTS, or at the SCERA Center of the Arts main office (745 S. State St. Orem), or at the gate one hour prior to each performance. Tickets range from $12 to $18 for adults, and $10 to $16 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. There are general admission and two reserved areas that come with a free chair. Non-refundable non-profit group rates for 20 or more will be $6 each if purchased in advance.
SCERA is producing three hugely popular musicals for its 35th year, with “Newsies,” “Peter Pan” and Disney’s “Beauty and The Beast.” SCERA President & CEO Adam Robertson says, “We’re going to do everything on a grand scale this summer!”
“This means I can go higher and bigger with the set and the concept,” Carrasco explains. “Our performers will be on platforms that extend 14 feet in the air, something that is not usually possible in an indoor venue. We will take it side to side, in and out and up and down. The scene will be filled in all dimensions. I realize this wholesome production has made it a top choice for many area groups, but I appreciate the showmanship and scale that the SCERA will contribute to a show I am absolutely certain our audiences will love.”
Much of the musical’s appeal is its clear David and Goliath stand-off between the kids who distribute newspapers and the huge newspaper magnates who control them.
“I loved the story, and with Academy Award-winning composer and songwriter Alan Menken behind the energetic music, plus such dynamic dancing, I was hooked. I have yearned to be involved with ‘Newsies,’” adds Carrasco, whose commitment and love for the show shines through at every production meeting and rehearsal.
“Newsies,” which was inspired by the real-life newsboys strike of 1899 in New York City is a Disney production that became the fastest Disney musical on Broadway to turn a profit. It received Tony Awards for best choreography and best original score and two Drama Desk Awards for outstanding choreography and outstanding music.
As Carrasco researched the turn of the 20th century period in which the musical takes place, he learned that girls also were newsies and stood on street corners hawking newspapers. “I was happy to cast male and female newsies, and they add tremendously to the music and dancing.”
Two hundred and thirty people auditioned for a total of 60 parts.
“The talent pool was so deep, I wish I could have cast even more,” he explains. “We simply didn’t have the space for the abundant dancing. I have come to expect that the females who audition will be good dancers, but what really pleases me is that so many young men came to auditions with the same level of dancing skill and talent. Even better, many of them tapped as if they had been tapping for years, which is really going to add tremendous spirit in ‘King of New York,’ the opening of Act II.” Tyne Valgardson Crockett, the choreographer, was heavily involved in recruiting a dance corp, so the quality of the dancing would meet and exceed people’s expectations.
Carrasco also lauds what he calls “exceptional commitment,” explaining that this cast is especially dedicated to putting on a great show. “For our final few weeks, we’ve been rehearsing on the outdoor stage. Well, you know the weather this season. It rained, but none of the cast wanted to leave, so we had a full rehearsal while it poured. They were out there singing and dancing as if the rain didn’t exist.”
M’Liss Tolman has designed a New York skyline set with fire escapes and platforms to give a sense of the high rises in New York City. Parts of the stage are extended into the audience to bring the audience closer to the production.
Also assisting Carrasco are Tyne Valgardson Crockett as choreographer, DeLayne Bluth Dayton as music director and Megan Johnson as stage manager.
“Newsies” features Paul Cave as Jack Kelly, Avonlea Simons as Katherine Plumber, Cole Souza as Davey Jacobs, and Alex Stringham as Les Jacobs. Carrasco raves “I call this quartet the Fab Four, because they make such a strong corps to lead the rest of the cast.” Lance Merrell plays the beloved Crutchie.
Carassco says he loves “Newsies” so much, he also wanted to appear onstage. “I gave myself a part as one of the cops, so I could perform with my cast.”
Operations Manager/Marketing & Development
SCERA Center for the Arts
745 South State, Orem, UT 84058
Photo Credit: Rachael Gibson