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Newsies are center stage in March!

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Can you tell we’re excited about Live Oak’s latest project, “Newsies?” Tickets are now on sale for the Live Oak Theatre performances of Disney’s “Newsies.” “Newsies” is sponsored by the President of Pasco Hernando State College, Timothy Beard, Ph.D. This production is performed by special arrangement with Music Theatre International. “Newsies” will be performed on March 18, 20, 25, 26, 27, April 1, 2, & 3 at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for the Arts, 21030 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville.

“Newsies” is a musical based on the 1992 musical film “Newsies” which was inspired by the real-life newsboys strike of 1899 in New York City. The show features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein based on the film’s screenplay by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White. The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 and made its Broadway debut in 2012–where it played for more than 1,000 performances before touring.

“‘Newsies’ was a goal of Live Oak Theatre ever since I can remember. ‘Newsies’ is rarely done because of the challenge. You need to have the right talent, skill, and the right leadership. You also need to obtain the rights,” said Live Oak vice president and marketing director Vince Vanni. “The Conservatory has allowed us to develop the talent. This is our 13th season as a company and our fourth season as a conservatory offering all of the voice, acting, and especially dance skills necessary. Most important, We have Andi Garner who has the ability to direct and choreograph a musical of this caliber.”

In Vanni’s eyes, “Newsies” is a joyful challenge of a production. He stated, “From my perspective, you have the high energy of all the song and dance, but then you must add the characterizations. Andi is a true triple threat. She understands that choreography and voice needs to be matched with the ability to act. She has asked me to help with characterizations and most important, the various New York accents. There is Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the ‘educated’ New York accent, which is the Long Island accent. Everyone must learn the “coffee vowel,” Pronounced [caw-fee]. So, the cast is constantly learning dance after dance after dance, but then I come in and rehearse the characters and all the different accents. Remember that there’s an Italian barber, Teddy Roosevelt, and a Jewish deli proprietor in the cast. Andi is challenging them to run and sing; To build up their ability to last the whole show.”

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Costumes pose another challenge for this historical piece. “Randi has been collecting costumes for this period since we began the company. We are known for accuracy in our costuming.”

Director Andi Garner cites “Newsies” as a most beloved production for the Live Oak crew. “I came on board after the choice to do ‘Newsies’ was made. Rumor has it the conservatory kids have been begging for years for this production; It shows! You would not believe the energy in rehearsal and it is infectious. The love is abundant. It has been a long time since I’ve been involved with a group of people who truly love and respect each other and really love and respect the process,” she said.

In Garner’s view, “I love that this show has everything! The challenge is finding enough time in the few hours at rehearsal to get all the information out and perfect it. The song and dance numbers are intense and long! I don’t know if anyone has seen these kids execute this type of dance in a show. The best part is they are doing it and doing it amazingly!”

It was Garner’s objective to present an authentic production. “The music is challenging, especially singing it while doing three turns and a flip. There is drama and comedy and I want it to be sincere. The cast is trying to keep everything authentic, true and from a very real place. All while using appropriate dialects of course. There are several different accents in the show and sometimes a performer will play 3 different roles with 3 different accents which might include someone from Brooklyn, someone from Long Island, and a Jewish immigrant,” said Garner. “The fight sequences are going to be thrillingly choreographed to perfection, some even with music. The kids love doing these the best I think. I can keep going on!”

Garner herself is a huge fan of the source material. “I think most people know that the Broadway musical is based on the movie. The movie which became a cult classic (me included in said cult–Watched the movie on repeat as a child) is based partly on true events. I’m hoping to add a little more realism and a little more truth to our show. In doing research, news girls were the ones they brought in to scab when the strike started. Mostly because the newsboys didn’t beat the girls up nearly as much as another boy. I found it interesting and wanted to add this element to what is usually a predominantly male heavy show. Another historical addition is the Bowery Beauties. I’m basing them off the real life Tiller Girls of the 1890’s ( they were the ones who spawned the Rockettes idea) so in Ms. Medda’s vaudeville house we get precision dancing with tall girls at its finest. Come see the show for more!” she said.

Garner says that the audition process for Newsies was particularly challenging. “I know the audition process was intense and new! We had everyone record a video of a monologue and a song from the show chosen by the artist staff depending on what character they were interested in. They had to video submit before even being asked to come in for a callback. If asked for a callback they had to learn two dances off a video I made,” she said. “They came in and danced in groups of 4 and were then cut from there. The next callback was cold reading, more singing and more dance in person. You have to be a true triple threat to do this show. Luckily some of the combos I did for auditions are actually in the show.”

The sets and costumes for the play will be a sight to behold! Garner explains, “So our set is more abstract and the performers move it around so effortlessly. The transitions are all seen. There are no blackouts in this show. It’s part of the show really. Just another spectacle part. I’m so excited about the costumes. Live Oak always does a fantastic job with this.”

The same goes for the rest of the show. “I want the audience to leave in awe! I don’t think our audience knows what this talented group is about to do! On every level! I also want them to leave singing and tapping their toes. It’s a feel good time we need in our lives right now. I will say the show is big and it’s a big spectacle. Live Oak is certainly proving to be up for the challenge,” said Garner.

Vanni agrees. “As the VP and Marketing Director, I want people to take away that Live Oak Theatre and Conservatory has achieved a standard not often achieved by local theaters, using only local talent,” he said. “We are a Repertory Company that has set strong standards for itself. Obviously, we also want audiences to leave singing and be uplifted by what young kids on the streets of New York can do. I would also like the audience to take away what Live Oak Kids can do.”

Advanced seats for Newsies are $20 for adults and $8 for children ages thirteen and under, when accompanied by an adult. Evening shows are at 7:30 pm and matinees are at 2:30 pm. Tickets at the door are increased to $25 for adults and $10 for children with an accompanying adult. Advanced prices are available up to 24 hours before each performance. For specific performance dates and times, and to purchase tickets, go to https://liveoaktheatre.square.site/ or email [email protected] or call 352-593-0027.

Please Note: If you purchase tickets under different names and wish to be seated together, you must email the box office at [email protected] or call 352-593-0027.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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